Pediatric Infectious Disease


During childhood, colds, the flu and many other infectious diseases seem unavoidable. Close contact with other children (and adults) at school, at play and out in public makes it easy for viruses and bacteria to spread from one person to the next. And it doesn’t take long for your child to become ill.

Most of the time your primary care physician can diagnose and treat common infections. However, there are uncommon and unusual infections, or infections with difficult to interpret symptoms, that may prompt your pediatrician to ask for the assistance of a specialist to help with diagnosis or treatment.

Mercy Kids' specialists diagnose and treat a wide range of infectious diseases, including viruses, bacteria and parasites. Examples include:

  • Congenital viral infections
  • Bacterial infections of the bones, joints, lungs, skin or other site
  • Prenatal infections
  • Tick-borne illnesses
  • Fever of unknown origin

As viruses and bacteria continually change, and resistance to conventional antibiotics increases, many infectious diseases are becoming more challenging to treat. Mercy physicians, nurses and medical staff work closely with patients and each other to ensure antibiotics are used correctly and that your child receives the best possible care.

If you’re traveling internationally, our travel medicine specialists provide consultations to recommend immunizations and other precautions to keep your children safe from infection.

Mercy knows that children are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases, and we’re committed to helping you keep your children – and your whole family -- as healthy as possible.

Keeping Your Kid Healthy: Is it a cold or the flu?

Falling temperatures signal the start of cold and influenza (flu) season, which will bring more children into the Mercy Kids ER. Frequently asked questions parents need to know to prepare their family for flu season:

There's a fair amount of confusion about this and providers hear regularly from the parents who bring their kids to us for care. Influenza is a respiratory viral infection that has a seasonal peak in winter. Some people talk about a "stomach flu" typically meaning a short viral gastroenteritis. Other times, people think that they had "the flu" but were only sick for a weekend - that's typically a common viral upper respiratory infection (URI).

Influenza symptoms tend to be more severe and can last longer than other common viral URIs. Kids with influenza infection often have body aches and high fevers in addition to cough, congestion and gastrointestinal complaints. Symptoms typically last about a week.

If parents notice influenza symptoms, general advice is to call their pediatrician's office if they are concerned. Urgent cares can be convenient, but your pediatrician knows your child better. There are medications that treat the influenza virus if started early, but side effects can be significant in some kids. Realistically, few healthy, school-age kids require anything more than supportive treatment at home. Infants or kids with breathing problems or serious medical issues should be evaluated promptly. If dehydration, difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms show up, that is typically going to need the emergency room. In the ER, we also look for pneumonia or other bacterial complications of the flu, which can cause a kid who was starting to turn the corner to abruptly become sicker.

We recommend the whole family get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Hand washing and wiping down surfaces can certainly be helpful, but kids share germs like it's their full-time job. If your child is sick, keep them out of school or daycare.

There are a lot of people who think the flu vaccine "gave them the flu." However, the flu shot is not a live virus, so it can't infect you. Common side effects are injection site reactions, low-grade fever and body aches. That achy feeling is a sign of the immune response. Other complications from the flu shot are rare.

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