HIV in Children: Care Instructions

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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease.

HIV often causes flu-like symptoms in children soon after they get infected. They might have yeast infections of the mouth. They may also have repeated bacterial infections and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.

Your doctor can prescribe antiviral medicines that can slow or stop the damage to your child's immune system. Most of the time, the medicines can prevent AIDS, which is the most severe stage of HIV infection. Treatment can help your child live a long, healthy life.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child their medicine exactly as directed. Try not to miss any doses. The medicine may not work if you miss doses. Talk to your doctor if you have problems with the schedule. Your doctor wants to help.
  • Make taking their medicine a part of your child's daily routine. For example, have your child take the medicine with breakfast or before brushing teeth. You can also put the week's pills in a pillbox, post reminders on calendars, or use sticky notes. Try sending your child reminders as text messages. Or set smartphone alerts.
  • Talk with your doctor if your child has trouble with the medicine. The doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine in a form that is easier to take.
  • Make sure that your child eats healthy foods, gets plenty of exercise, and has all recommended vaccines on schedule.
  • Join a support group. These groups can be a good place to share information, tips, and feelings.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has problems from the medicine.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is coughing.
  • Your child has diarrhea.
  • Your child has skin changes.
  • Your child is bleeding.
  • Your child is confused or not thinking clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.