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Mom, here's what you need to know about enterovirus and your family

Amy Hatch began her career as a print journalist, and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Urbana, Ill. with her husband and two children.

My kids had enterovirus — here's what I want you to know

You've probably heard that a nasty respiratory virus is making its way across the nation, infecting kids and sending some to the hospital. It's called enterovirus D68.

The virus presents as a normal cold, but the symptoms can rapidly escalate. Those with asthma or other respiratory disorders are especially at risk. In severe cases, it can even cause paralysis, heart infection or brain infection.

It's definitely a scary bug — I know, because I spent the last three weeks nursing my family through it. My son and husband came down with what looked like a regular but seriously unpleasant summer cold the last week in August. My son, who is 6, also has asthma, so I wasn't surprised when he started to wheeze and cough.

I didn't take him to the doctor until the cough got so bad that he wasn't able to sleep at night, which is our red flag for his breathing issues. While the diagnosis was bronchitis, the infection he got was very likely a result of the virus. And, a week later, my older child came down with the same thing and started wheezing, but she barely even has seasonal allergies, let alone asthma. That's when I knew she probably had enterovirus.

My kid was out of school for eight days. I took her to the pediatrician when she started having trouble breathing, and the doctor prescribed an inhaler for her to use four times a day and told us that while she didn't have access to the test for enterovirus, she suspected that was the culprit. My poor daughter is still easily winded, and it's been more than 10 days since her symptoms began.

Thankfully none of my family members were so ill that they required emergency treatment or hospitalization. A friend of a friend spent several days with her 4-year-old in intensive care because of the bug. Dr. Fred Shulski of MVP Kids Care in Phoenix, Arizona, says the majority of people who contract enterovirus won't need acute medical treatment, but parents and caregivers should be on alert.

"Parents should be concerned if their child has difficulty breathing, has asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions or is under the age of 2," he told me. "Any child who falls into one or more of these categories should be seen by a health care professional."

However, you don't need to panic. The majority of kids will just suffer from the really unpleasant coldlike symptoms. Although he says the illness won't last more than seven days on average, in my house, we're still recovering. The illness saps your energy for a long time. And don't feel guilty about keeping your kid home from school. You're keeping not only your own child safe but also his or her classmates.

To help prevent catching the virus, Shulski advises wiping down toys and surfaces in your home, hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and getting enough rest.

After going through it, I advise you to call your doctor if you are even a little bit worried when your child presents these symptoms. In the case of enterovirus, it's absolutely better safe than sorry.

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