Adenovirus: A-to-Z Guide from Diagnosis to Treatment to Prevention


Introduction to adenovirus:

Most parents haven’t heard of adenovirus, but most children get it several times – especially in the first 2 years of life.

What is adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are very common viruses that can cause infections in children. There are over fifty subtypes of adenovirus. They most commonly cause upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, sore throats, tonsillitis, ear infections, and conjunctivitis. Another common adenoviral infection is pharyngoconjunctival fever (sore throat, red eyes, and a fever).

Less commonly, adenoviruses cause croup, pertussis syndrome, or bronchiolitis.

Adenoviruses are a common cause of gastroenteritis.They can also cause urinary tract infections (including hemorrhagic cystitis – a type of UTI with blood in the urine).

In rare cases, adenoviruses cause pneumonia, meningitis, or encephalitis.

Who gets adenovirus?

Anyone can get adenoviral infections, from newborns to the elderly. Infections are most common between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Children in day care are most likely to get repeated adenoviral infections.

Respiratory tract infections are slightly more common in the spring (from late winter, through spring, and into early summer). Adenoviruses are common causes of spring colds.

Adenoviral gastroenteritis occurs with the same frequency year round.

The very young and the immunocompromised are at the highest risk for significant illness.

What are the symptoms of adenovirus?

The symptoms depend on the location of the infection, but often include a fever. The sore throat, for instance, may be confused with strep throat in the absence of a throat swab.

Is adenovirus contagious?

Adenovirus can spread via direct contact, droplet transmission, and fecal-oral transmission. Because the virus is stable in the environment, fomites are a common cause of spread. Spread has been documented from contaminated swimming pools and towels.

How long does adenovirus last?

People usually develop symptoms within 2 weeks of exposure. The length of the disease is usually typical for the location (e.g. less than 7 days for gastroenteritis).

How is adenovirus diagnosed?

The diagnosis is suspected based on the history and physical exam. It may be confirmed by viral studies. These may include swabs of the eyes, throat, or stool as appropriate. Occasionally blood or urine tests are performed.

How is adenovirus treated?

Treatment is usually aimed at controlling symptoms. Antibiotics are not helpful.

How can adenovirus be prevented?

Adenovirus infections are difficult to prevent. Some cases can be prevented by good hand washing, and by avoiding contaminated objects.

Adenoviral conjunctivitis, for instance, has sometimes spread rapidly in the offices of eye doctors. Good hand washing, and using disposable or sterile instruments and bottles of eye drops can interrupt this spread.

Adequate chlorination of pools can also prevent some adenoviral infections.

Related concepts:

Pharyngoconjunctival Fever

Dr. Alan Greene

As a father of four himself, Dr. Greene has devoted himself to freely giving real answers to parents' real questions -- from questions about those all too common childhood conditions to those that address the most recent and rare pediatric illnesses. His answers combine cutting edge science, practical wisdom, warm empathy, and a deep respect for parents, children, and the environment. He is also an electrifying public speaker, and has personally touched many during his talks in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dr. Greene is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California at San Francisco. Upon completion of his pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Northern California he served as Chief Resident. He entered primary care pediatrics in January 1993.

Dr. Greene is the Past President of The Organic Center and on the Board of Directors of Healthy Child Healthy World. He is a founding partner of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. He also consults for the Environmental Working Group.

In 1995, he launched, cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site” on the Internet. His award-winning site has received over 80 million Unique Users from parents, concerned family members, students, and healthcare professionals. In addition to being the founder of, he is the Medical Director for HealthTap.

In 2010 Dr. Greene founded the WhiteOut Movement to change how babies in the United States are fed. In 2012 he founded TICC TOCC - Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping To Optimal Cord Clamping. He is also the founder of KidGlyphs, a free iPhone app that provides a tool for young children to express themselves beyond their verbal skills while teaching them important language skills.

Dr. Greene is the Founding President of the Society for Participatory Medicine and has served as both President and Board Chair of Hi-Ethics (Health Internet Ethics. He is on the Board of Directors for Healthy Child Healthy World, The Lunchbox Project, and The Society for Participatory Medicine. He has also served as an advisor to URAC for both their inaugural and their updated health web site accreditation program. He is a founding member of the e-Patient Scholars Working Group, and a founding board member of the Center for Information Therapy.

Dr. Greene is a regular columnist for Parenting Magazine. He is also the Pediatric Expert for The People’s Pharmacy (as heard on NPR) and Healing Quest (seen on PBS stations). He was the original Pediatric Expert for both Yahoo! and iVillage.

Dr. Greene is the author of Feeding Baby Green (Wiley, 2009), Raising Baby Green (Wiley, 2007), From First Kicks to First Steps (McGraw-Hill, 2004), The Parent's Complete Guide to Ear Infections (People's Medical Society, 1997), and a co-author of The A.D.A.M. Illustrated Family Health Guide (A.D.A.M., Inc., 2004). He is the medical expert for three additional books, The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your New Baby, (Contemporary Books, 1998) The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your Toddler, (Contemporary Books, 1999), and The Mother of All Baby Books, (Hungry Minds, Inc., 2002).

Dr. Greene is a frequent keynote speaker at important events such as Health 2.0 2011 held in San Diego, CA, IFOAM 2008 (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), held in Modena Italy, the first European Internet health conference, held in Maastricht, the first International eHealth Association Conference, held in Jeddah, and the largest e-Healthcare World Conference, held in Las Vegas, and the first Green Power Baby Shower, held in Hollywood. Dr. Greene also appears frequently on TV, radio, websites, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including such venues as the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC network news, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time Magazine, Parade, Parenting, Child, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Better Home's & Gardens, and the Reader's Digest.

Dr. Greene loves to think about challenging ideas, he enjoys being where nothing manmade can be seen, and he wears green socks.

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