Tuesday, September 25, 2012

West Nile Virus, Part 1

My first two kids were born in 2000 and 2002, shortly after West Nile was first detected in North America in 1999.  This year we are seeing more cases of it, and so it is in the news again.  I had been doing with the baby what I had done with the girls.  Which is basically nothing.

At breakfast today, my husband asked about West Nile Virus and our baby.  In particular he wanted me to be sure to put insect repellent on the baby any time we would be outside for more than 15 minutes. He had read in a newspaper article of a person in our town of 30,000 dying from West Nile virus. He also knew that I haven’t been putting insect repellent on the baby.  

So, I told him that I would look into it.  When I was in PNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner) school I was taught that because babies' skin is thin they can absorb chemicals through the skin to get into the blood stream.  I thought I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to put DEET on babies until after they were six months old.  However, I don't remember what the current recommendations are. My mother-in-law had given us some AVON insect wipes with Picaridin, an ingredient that I haven’t ever researched. The packaging didn’t indicate whether it was safe for babies under six months or not.  

When the girls were babies we lived in Dallas and West Nile virus was a very new to the United States.  It seemed quite rare in children. Since it is a virus, the doctor's office I worked for was not very worried about Wile Nile itself. However they were worried if a child had fever over 102F that wouldn't come down, wasn't drinking, or not acting like him or herself. Questions to ask would include:
  • Was the child acting ok? 
  • Did the fever come down with Tylenol or Motrin?
  • Is the child not drinking?
  • Did they have symptoms of meningitis or other neurological illness (encephalitis)? (such as, altered level of consciousness, change in ability to walk, not completely wake up, not able to put chin to chest)
So with all of my kids up to this point, I avoided bug spray when they were babies. When we were outside, I just didn’t stay outside when the bugs were biting.  I put them in long pants and long sleeves shirts.  I sprayed their clothes, not their skin.  All of this was done to prevent the discomfort of bug bites as much as to protect against West Nile Virus.

Nowadays I am outside with the baby for the younger daughter's cheerleading practice or just playing outside with the three year old boy. It seems like a good time for a review of the the guidelines and literature out there to decide what I would do with dear baby when we went outside.  

Tomorrow I will post about DEET and Picaridin and other insect repellents. And then what the current scientific research says about children and West Nile Virus.  For now I will leave you with a link to NPmama’s description of West Nile Virus. 

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