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HIV and Your Child
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection means that the body's immune system may not fight off infections very well. Your child's body may not be able to fight back against illness, even a simple cold. Additional care is needed for a child with HIV in order to help him/her remain healthy.
Children living with HIV are seen at specialty HIV clinics regularly, usually every three to six months and require blood tests so their provider can evaluate the amount of virus in their blood, numbers of CD4 cells and other laboratory tests on how the medicine is working inside their body.
During the clinic visits, other specialists may see your child, such as nutritionist, case manager or mental health specialist. They offer screening and advice on how to make sure your child stays healthy and grows strong. They can help support your other needs or refer you to the appropriate resources, such as transportation for medical care, housing needs, food access and other relevant services.
Please remember, our team is here for you and your child’s needs. Together, we will make sure that your child lives a healthy life and grows to his or her full potential.
Keeping Your Child with HIV Healthy
One of the best ways to keep your child healthy is to use proper hand washing techniques. Clean hands help keep your child from catching colds and from developing other illnesses. Teach your child to wash his or her hands thoroughly at an early age.
Keeping healthy habits are the best way a child can prevent illness.
Staying Healthy with HIV
Make sure your child eats the right foods. This will give your child the energy needed to stay healthy.
- Give your child three balanced meals a day and snacks appropriate from each food grouping (milks, meats, breads, and fruits and vegetables). If you have questions about choosing healthy foods for your child, ask your child's doctor.
- A dietitian can also help if your child has special feeding or eating problems, such as mouth sores, that make eating painful for your child.
When your child has a cut or sore, the skin is open to germs and can become infected. Taking good care of your child's skin helps prevent infections and may help to keep your child healthy. Consider the following when caring for your child's skin:
- Prevent injuries such as cuts and scrapes.
- Keep the skin clean and dry by washing daily with mild soap and water. Dry your child's skin very well.
- Rub lotion on the skin to prevent dryness and chapping.
- Consult your child's physician right away if you notice a rash or unusual sore or cut. A diaper rash or white patches in your child's mouth may require additional treatment.
- Consult your child's healthcare team if you have any special questions or concerns about your child's skin care.
- Make sure to apply sunscreen and insect repellent on your child whenever he/she is playing outside with uncovered skin.
Being tired and stressed can make your child more likely to become sick. Consider the following to make sure your child is receiving the appropriate rest and relaxation his/her body needs:
- Normal play is important for your child.
- Plan rest periods and have a regular bedtime for your child.
- Make sure your child gets at least eight or more hours of sleep each night.
- If your child seems worried or upset, consult his/her social worker or a chaplain.
- If you have special questions about your child's rest and sleep needs, consult his/her healthcare team.
- Caution should be used when allowing your child to have pets, or contact with other people's pets. Children should never be left with animals without supervision. Consult your child's physician about any pets you have now, and/or before bringing home any new pets.
Ensuring your child takes his or her antiretroviral medication every day, as prescribed, is one of the most important aspects of caring for a child with HIV.
Benefits of taking medication daily as prescribed:
- Keeps your child healthy
- Restores and protects the immune system
- Stops the virus from replicating inside the body
- Prevents development of the medication resistance
Helpful tips to avoid missed medication doses:
- Use pill boxes (ask provider for assistance).
- Refill medication ahead of time (at least a couple of days before the bottle is empty) to avoid running out.
- Make taking medication part of the daily routine.
- Use a phone app or phone alarm as a medication reminder.
Caring for a Child with HIV
You should use universal precautions for any contact with blood, whether your child is known to be HIV-infected or not. These precautions include the following:
- Wear latex or vinyl gloves when you need to touch the HIV-infected person's blood and body fluids.
- Clean up blood and body fluid spills with a mixture of bleach and water. Mix 1/4 cup of bleach with 2 cups of water.
- Wash clothes soiled with blood and body fluids with soapy water. Bleach or non-chlorine bleach may be used to help get stains out. Items that cannot be washed should be put in a plastic bag and thrown away.
- Do not share razors or toothbrushes with an HIV-infected person. If your child has HIV, you can help him/her to keep from spreading HIV by teaching him/her some basic rules, including the following:
- Instruct your child to wash his/her hands with soap and water after contact with blood and body fluids.
- Instruct your child to carry a clean handkerchief in case of a nosebleed or cut. Cover the cut tightly with the handkerchief. Do not allow anyone to touch the blood with their bare hands.
Keeping your child's healthcare appointments is very important. You will also need to know when to bring your child in for care when he/she is getting sick. Your child should see his/her physician if he/she has:
- A fever greater than 100.5º F by mouth, or 99º F under the arm. If you do not know how to take your child's temperature, consult his/her physician.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulties urinating
- Shortness of breath or a cough
- A change in bowel movements (such as diarrhea)
- A skin rash including diaper rash, sores on the skin or in the mouth or white patches in the mouth
- Mood and Behavioral changes
- Bleeds or bruises for unknown reasons
- New onset of pain
- Ear pain or drainage from the ear
- Swollen glands and/or joints
- Weight loss
- Been in contact with someone who has a contagious illness (especially tuberculosis and chickenpox)
Consult your child's physician for more information.