Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that typically cause respiratory illnesses, such as a common cold, conjunctivitis (an infection in the eye that is sometimes called pink eye), croup, bronchiolitis, or pneumonia. In children, adenoviruses usually cause infections in the respiratory tract and intestinal tract.
Adenovirus infections may occur in children of any age. However, children ages 6 months to 2 years who attend child care may be more likely to become ill with these viruses, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Adenoviral respiratory infections are most common in the late winter, spring, and early summer. Adenoviruses can occur anytime throughout the year.
Adenovirus infections of the digestive tract are more common in children under the age of 5.
Most children have had one form of adenovirus infection by age 10.
The following are the most common ways adenoviruses are spread from person to person:
Respiratory infections. Fluid from the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, and mouth) may contain the virus. Respiratory infections are spread when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes on another person. It can also be spread by touching an object that is contaminated by the virus. The virus can live for many hours on objects, such as doorknobs, hard surfaces, and toys.
Intestinal tract infections. The form of the virus that affects the digestive tract is usually spread by fecal-oral contact. Usually this is because of poor hand washing or from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Most adenovirus infections are mild with few symptoms. The following chart describes the most common symptoms of adenovirus infections. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Respiratory infections (symptoms may develop 2 to 14 days after exposure)
Intestinal tract infections (symptoms may develop 3 to 10 days after exposure); symptoms usually occur in children younger than 5 years and may last 1 to 2 weeks.
Symptoms of a common cold--runny nose
Watery diarrhea that starts suddenly
Swollen lymph nodes
Feeling of uneasiness
The symptoms of adenoviruses may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.
Usually, testing for adenovirus is only necessary in severely ill children or those with an underlying medical problem. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic tests for adenoviruses may include:
Testing respiratory fluids by eye, nasal, or throat swab
Testing stool samples
There is no cure for adenovirus infections. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. Antibiotics are not used to treat adenoviruses. Specific treatment for adenovirus infections will be determined by your child's health care provider based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
How sick he or she is
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
How long the infection is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
Treatment for respiratory infection may include:
Increased fluid intake. It's very important to encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. If necessary, an intravenous (IV) line may be started to give your child fluids and essential electrolytes.
Bronchodilator medications. Bronchodilator medications may be used to open your child's airways. These medications are often administered in an aerosol mist by a mask or through an inhaler.
Supplemental oxygen through a mask, nasal prongs, or an oxygen tent
Mechanical ventilation. A child who becomes very ill with adenovirus may require mechanical ventilation or a respirator to assist with breathing for a period of time.
Treatment for intestinal infection may include:
Oral rehydration. Oral rehydration with water, formula, breast milk and/or special electrolyte-containing fluids (fluids containing sugars and salts) is important. Very young children should NOT be rehydrated with soda, juices, or sports drinks.
Continue feeding your child solid foods if they are able to tolerate them. Some children may develop severe enough dehydration to require hospitalization. For these children, treatment may include:
Administration of intravenous (IV) fluids
Nasogastric (NG) tube feedings. A small tube is placed into your child's stomach through the nose so that formula or fluids may be administered.
Blood work. This is done to measure your child's electrolyte levels--sugar, salt, and other chemicals in the blood.
To help prevent the spread of adenoviruses to others:
Wash your hands using soap and water and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and air dry or use a clean towel.
Use a tissue and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
Avoid close contact with someone who is sick
Encourage frequent hand washing in child care settings
If your child is in the hospital, health care workers may wear special isolation clothing, such as gowns, gloves, and masks when they enter your child's room.
Certain complications may develop from an adenovirus infection. Talk with your child's health care provider for more information.
Children who develop pneumonia from adenovirus may develop chronic lung disease. However, this is very rare.
Children with weakened immune systems are at risk for developing a more severe infection from adenoviruses.
A severe complication of intestinal adenovirus is intussusception (an intestinal blockage that occurs when one part of the intestine slides over another section like a telescope.) This is a medical emergency and most often occurs in babies. The symptoms of intussusception may include bloody stool, vomiting, abdominal swelling, knees flexed to chest, loud cries from pain, weakness, and lethargy.