Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV) are a group of viruses that cause different types of respiratory infections and are most common in children and babies. Most HPIV usually cause infections of the upper airway such as a common cold, ear infections, or sore throat. Other infections caused by HPIV include infections of the lower respiratory tract such as croup (an infection of the airway below the larynx, or "voice box," that is characterized by a barky cough and harsh, noisy breathing), pneumonia, or bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the lower airways).
HPIV can occur by either direct contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person or by coming in contact with infectious material then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Most children develop an infection with HPIV before they are 5 years old.
The following are the most common symptoms of HPIV infections. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
In addition to a complete medical history, physical examination of your child, and knowledge of regional outbreaks, other diagnostic procedures for HPIV may include:
Once a child is infected, treatment is supportive (aimed at alleviating the symptoms present). Because a virus causes the infection, antibiotics are not useful. Specific treatment will be determined by your child's physician based on:
HPIV usually cause mild symptoms of a common cold, but are also a common cause of croup. Croup symptoms can be very scary for parents. Supportive treatment for croup may include:
Strict hand washing is important to prevent the spread of HPIV to other infants and children. If your child is in the hospital, healthcare workers may wear special isolation apparel such as masks, gowns, and gloves when they enter your child's room. Efforts are underway to develop a vaccine for HPIV, but, currently, there is no immunization for the virus.