HIV in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

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

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). But having HIV doesn't mean that your child has AIDS.

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 medicines that can slow or stop the damage to the immune system. Treatment can help your child live a long and active 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?

  • Make sure that your child takes the medicines exactly as the doctor prescribes them. Do not skip doses. If the medicines aren't taken as prescribed, the HIV virus can be harder to treat. But children who take their medicines as directed have a good chance of living a long, healthy life.
  • Talk with your doctor if you or your child has trouble with the medicines or the schedule for taking them. The doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine in a form that is easier for your child to take.
  • Link taking the medicine with your child's daily routine. This can make staying with treatment easier. 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.
  • 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.