Illnesses & Symptoms
What are Adenoviruses?
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that cause cold and flu like symptoms. It is most common in late winter, spring, and early summer, but can happen at any time of the year. It is most common in infants and young children, and by 10 years of age, most of us have been infected by adenovirus. It is spread by respiratory secretions (ie cough or sneeze) and fecal contamination. The incubation is 2 days to 2 weeks. It is possible to be infected more than once. Washing hands and surfaces is the best way to prevent infection.
What are the Symptoms?
People infected with adenovirus might have any combination of the following symptoms, but most do not have all symptoms.
- sore throat
- runny nose and/or congestion
- ear infection
- viral pneumonia
- watery diarrhea
- abdominal cramps
- frequent urination
- painful urination
- blood in the urine
- red eyes with or without discharge or tearing
- swollen "glands" (lymph nodes)
- Symptomatic treatment is used because there is no medication specific to treating the infection. Symptoms tend to last a few days to several weeks.
- Pain/fever relievers (acetaminophen if over 2 months or ibuprofen if over 6 months) will help the aches and pains and encourage more drinking.
- Offer plenty of fluids. Infants are at risk of dehydration, and occasionally need iv fluids to hydrate them. Monitor for urine at least every 6 hours for infants and every 12 hours for children.
- Saline can be used to clear the nose and sinuses.
- Adding water to the air with a humidifier or vaporizer can keep the mucus loose. Do not add menthol or other medications to this.
- Warm compresses to the eyes can relieve eye symptoms. See also our Pink Eye and Other Red Eyes page. Because this virus can cause red eyes with discharge, it is easily confused with bacterial pink eye.
- Avoid dairy if there is vomiting or diarrhea.
- We do not recommend cold or cough medications. Honey can be used to suppress a cough in kids over 1 year of age.
- Learn more about treating cold and cough symptoms.
- Since allergy season overlaps adenovirus season, if you are uncertain if the red eyes are from allergy, you can give an antihistamine to see if there is improvement and continue if it helps.
- Wash hands often!
When to Make an Appointment or go to Urgent Care
- Symptoms worsening: If your symptoms worsen within one week, make an appointment during office hours.
- Rapid breathing, short of breath, pain with breathing, or other breathing concerns: If you are experiencing any of these issues, make an appointment or come during our walk-in hours as soon as possible. If this is not possible, go to a pediatric Urgent Care Center or the nearest ER.
- Dehydration (no urine as above, no tears, dry mouth, lacking energy, sunken eyes): If you are experiencing dehydration, make an appointment or come during our walk-in hours as soon as possible. If this is not possible, go to a pediatric Urgent Care Center or the nearest ER.
- Eye changes: Kids rarely have clean hands when they rub their eyes, so they can easily contaminate the viral eye infection with bacteria. If the white of the eye is red and the discharge is yellow/green, your child should be seen to evaluate if they need prescription eye drops. Young children often have an ear infection with pink eye, so need to be seen. This is not an emergency and can wait until normal business hours.
- All infants under 3 months should be seen as soon as possible. If after hours, seek care at a pediatric facility if possible.