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A LOOK AT CHILDREN AND VIRUSES

Q: Can you help me with internal bleeding in my 2-year-old grandson? He was brought to the doctor because he had spots on him that looked like bruises. The doctor said he had internal bleeding because his platelets were very low. He was kept in the hospital where he was given a transfusion. He improved rapidly and was sent home. They told us that it was because of a virus. -- E.H., St. Charles, Minn.

A: It sounds like your grandson had a disorder that kept his blood from clotting. One type of these disorders fairly common in children is called thrombocytopenia, and it is often caused by a virus. I'm glad he is OK now; it's unlikely that he will have any long-term effects from the disorder.

Your question, as I understand it, is how can we protect ourselves and our young people from viruses. There are almost as many answers as there are viruses.

First, the good news. Some viral infections, such as measles, mumps, polio and hepatitis are easily prevented by vaccinations. In 1995, a new vaccine for chicken pox was approved and released. Flu vaccines are also available.

In the case of shingles and a few others infections, anti-viral drugs can be of some help. No specific treatment is available for tick fever or mononucleosis ("mono"), except treatment of the symptoms. Complications from mono will often require treatment with drugs.

Of course, in a terrible disease like rabies the only chance for successful treatment is immediate cleaning of the wound, followed by immunization shots. We should be thankful that rabies and some other serious viral infections are relatively rare in this country. But this depends on everyone actively immunizing their pets.

So, my general recommendations so you can better take care of your little ones are: periodic medical checkups, attention to diet and exercise, good hygiene practices and constant attention to fevers, stomach pain, lethargy and any other sign of possible infection. Good luck.

Dr. Allen Douma welcomes questions from readers. Although he cannot respond to each one individually, he will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Dr. Douma in care of Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.

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