Valley fever in kids
Dr. Edward Carter, MD, is chief of Pulmonology at Cardon Children's Medical Center. For more information, talk with your doctor or call (480) 412-5437 (KIDS).
Question: My children spend a lot of time outdoors. With our recent monsoon storms, does their risk for contracting valley fever increase?
Answer: Valley fever, or coccidiomycosis, is a respiratory infection caused by a fungus called Coccidioides that grows in soil and thrives in our climate. In severe dust storms, more of the fungus gets into our air, increasing our odds of inhaling fungal spores and becoming infected. Thus, monsoon season brings a higher risk of valley fever. During a dust storm, try to remain inside, and if you must be outdoors, cover your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth to avoid breathing in the fungus.
While children can get valley fever, those at highest risk are infants and persons over 60 years old, individuals new to our area, and those with weakened immune systems. People who contract valley fever may experience flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, skin rashes and fatigue, but many have few symptoms and do not even know they have it. Because symptoms are similar to those of common viral infections and often improve without treatment, more than half of patients with valley fever do not seek medical attention.
If symptoms appear and persist for more than a week, your physician can order a blood test to check for valley fever. Several treatment options are available for patients who do not get better on their own, so if valley fever is confirmed, the doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on the individual patient's needs.
Fortunately, valley fever is not contagious, and most patients experience few, if any, long-term complications from the illness. However, in some people, valley fever can be serious, causing pneumonia and other problems. Because valley fever has the potential to be a severe infection, contact your family physician for evaluation if you suspect you or a family member has the illness.