A 5-Year-Old's Fight With Enterovirus -- The 'Mystery' Disease Sweeping America

Delilah & Her Son

By now, you have probably heard about enterovirus-D68, or EV-D68, a horrifying, highly contagious virus spreading across the country at a feverish pace. Twelve states are dealing with hundreds of kids left sick and hospitalized, fighting to recover from the respiratory illness.

Delilah Dawson is the mom of one of those children. Dawson's 5-year-old son had a terrifying bout with the enterovirus that befuddled his doctor, delaying his diagnosis, and gave her a huge scare. The mom from a small mountain town in Georgia sat down with The Stir in the hopes she will help moms familiarize themselves with enterovirus and spare them from a similar ordeal.

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What were your son's symptoms?
It started with a groin rash on my 5-year-old at bedtime. I gave him Benadryl and put him to bed. The next morning, he had light cold symptoms, and the rash had spread to his abdomen and legs. It was raised, red, and itchy, and I began to worry.

I took him to the pediatrician, where I was told it was a simple rash and to wash his clothes in free and clear detergent and keep up on the Benadryl. He napped a lot that day and began coughing. The next day, we were back at the pediatrician with a rash creeping up his face, wheezing, and a fever of 101. While we waited two hours to be seen, his fever spiked, and when I took him to the bathroom, he vomited.

His fever topped out at 103. Scary. The doctor tested his oxygen levels and gave him a breathing treatment. They did a finger prick and sent us to the hospital for a blood draw to check for allergens and known viruses. We were also given a prescription for an albuterol inhaler.

There wasn't a clear path to diagnosis. How long did it take?
We spent more than 14 hours at the pediatrician. I am usually fine with conservative care and not causing alarm, but once my son was covered in a hot, red rash and was feverish, wheezing, crying, and vomiting, I became much more firm in demanding tests. We still had to wait several days for test results. It came up as Enterovirus combined with Rhinovirus, although they didn't type it further. This happened in May, before the major outbreak raised suspicion.

You must have been terrified seeing him so sick. And dealing with the uncertainty.
The changing rash and lethargy were the hardest parts. Not knowing what we were dealing with and how serious it might be was also difficult. He missed his last two weeks of preschool.

There's no treatment for this yet. How did doctors help your son?
Benadryl, albuterol, ibuprofen, and a breathing treatment helped. Managing his discomfort combined with a small boy's energy level was challenging.

Is your son dealing with any after-effects of the virus?
No, although we did have his tonsils out this summer. I am hoping to end his overabundance of illnesses compared to the rest of the family.

Do you have any advice for moms? What should they look for?
I was so busy watching the shifting rash and worrying about the fever and vomiting that I didn't notice the wheezing. If that had started after office hours or at night, I would've been terrified. Armed with the information available today, I think moms will have a better chance at diagnosing it early and getting albuterol inhalers, just in case.

More from The Stir: Mysterious Kids' Respiratory Virus Spreading Fast & Now Parents Are At Risk

Also, the virus jumped to my 7-year-old daughter as pink eye and to me as a far more dangerous case of Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis, which was so bad that I missed a conference and was almost hospitalized. If you think your kid has Enterovirus, keep him home and wash your hands more than you think you need to! And don't rub your eyes. I looked like a zombie!

How has this experience affected you as a mom?
I'll be quicker to ask for blood tests the next time the pediatrician is stumped. As horrible as it was to hold him down while they drew his blood, I felt so relieved to finally have a diagnosis. And since they did a full allergen panel, now we know he's not allergic to anything ... one bonus from a terrifying experience.

Have you or anyone you know had enterovirus?

 

Image via Delilah Dawson

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