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Why We All Hate Viruses

As a pediatrician, I hate viruses. I hate them even though they are one of the most relevant reasons my job, as a pediatrician, exists. Here's the main reason I hate viruses. If your child contracts a viral infection, in almost every circumstance, I can't cure them. Often I can I can make a specific diagnoses. Many viruses may, for example, have a specific rash or a specific test by which to confirm the infection. For example, chicken pox has a specific rash as does roseola. I can test for influenza right in the office, and Mono and RSV through the lab. So at least, in these instances, I can be specific when I tell you, as a worried parent, what is going on. But still these viruses have no cures, and so I can only treat the symptoms. I understand how frustrating it can be, to you, as a parent, when I, as the doctor, say that these symptoms are caused by a virus and it will have to run its course. I assure you guys, I am not trying to avoid treating your baby, there simply is no treatment.

What is more frustrating for both you as a parent and me as a pediatrician, are viruses that cannot typically be easily diagnosed specifically, either in the office or otherwise. For example, one thing I hate especially, is a severe vomiting and diarrhea infection. While vomiting and diarrhea can represent other more serious pathology at times, by far the most common reason is a "stomach bug", in other words a virus. And there are so many viruses that cause these symptoms. A child who has vomited multiple times worries his or her parents terribly. The child will appear miserable and the parent feels helpless. Believe me I understand, I have watched my own children suffer through such infections. Parents desperately want me, as the doctor, to do something. I really wish I could. But there really isn't any treatment for a viral "stomach bug". Anti nausea/vomiting medications are really not recommended for young children in these circumstances and antibiotics would be likely to make things worse. Antibiotics kill bacteria not viruses. If I give a child with an intestinal virus an antibiotic, and kill the good bacteria that are supposed to live in the gut, then the virus can thrive even more. What I can do, is advise you on how to keep your child hydrated and what you might feed him/her that may help. The only good thing about these viruses is that they are usually very short lived.

Another symptom that frustrates parents is the sore throat. Although, of course, sore throats can be caused by strep, that only accounts for a small percentage of sore throats. There are many, many viruses that cause a sore, red throat, swollen tonsils and even white spots and pus on tonsils. Very often it is not strep and an antibiotic will do nothing and potentially could cause harm. Actually, I would love if every sore throat was caused by strep. As a pediatrician, I love strep in a way. There is a very good, fast test to diagnose it, and most antibiotics can treat it. Usually, the patient will be feeling better in 24 hours. I wish every infection was like strep. But unfortunately as I said, most sore throats are not strep, they are viral. And so once again I may say to you, the concerned parent, it will have to run it's course. Believe me, there is nothing I would like more than to be able to give you a fast and easy treatment and If it existed I would prescribe it. And so the same goes for snotty stuffy noses caused by viruses, coughs caused by viruses and rashes caused by viruses.  None of this is to say you should not bring your child to the clinic when you are concerned. Sometimes, symptoms that might usually be caused by a viral infection are actually due to a dangerous condition that needs rapid treatment. It is my job to be aware of this, and to be astute and observant enough to recognize when there is something more serious going on, your even, just simply something that is treatable like strep. Please remember parents, when I say it is a virus and there is no treatment other than time, I am most certainly not saying it is nothing. A virus is an infection and it can make a child feel and look miserable. I know that from experience both as a doctor, and a parent. The good thing is that most viruses are not serious and your child should make a full recovery quickly.

It is my honor and privilege to care for all those beautiful children and I will continue to do the best I can to serve them as effectively as possible.

See you next time, 
Dr. Sheridan Hernandez

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