Parainfluenza – Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is parainfluenza?
Parainfluenza refers to a group of viruses called human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs). These viruses cause upper and lower respiratory infections in infants, young children, older adults, and people with the weakened immune system. However, anyone can be affected.
Parainfluenza infections are most common in fall and winter. These infections are most severe in infants and become less severe with age.
What are the types of parainfluenza?
There are four types of parainfluenza virus. They can all cause lower or upper respiratory infections in children and adults. These viruses can cause croup, bronchiolitis, bronchitis and certain types of pneumonia.
The following are the different types of HPIVs:
- HPIV-1: This virus causes croup, upper and lower respiratory illnesses and cold-like symptoms. This virus is most often identified as the cause in children.
- HPIV-2: this virus causes croup, upper and lower respiratory illness and cold-like symptoms.
- HPIV-3: This virus is more often associated with bronchiolitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
- HPIV-4: This virus is recognized less often but may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses.
What are the symptoms of parainfluenza?
Symptoms of parainfluenza develop about 2 to 7 days after the infection. Symptoms vary depending on the type of infection. Cold-like symptoms consisting of a runny nose and mild cough are common.
The following are the symptoms of upper respiratory illness:
- Runny nose
The following are the symptoms of severe lower respiratory illness:
- Croup (infection of the vocal cords, windpipe (trachea) and bronchial tubes
- Bronchitis (infection of the main air passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs)
- Bronchiolitis (infection in the small air passages in the lungs)
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
The following are the other symptoms of parainfluenza infections:
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Decreased appetite.
How is parainfluenza diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms. The physical exam may reveal sinus tenderness, swollen glands, and a red throat. The doctor may hear abnormal sounds, such as crackling or wheezing in the lungs and chest during auscultation with a stethoscope.
The doctor may order the following tests:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan of the chest
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood cultures (to rule out other causes of pneumonia)
- Arterial blood gases
- Swab of the nose for rapid viral test
How is parainfluenza treated?
There is no specific treatment for parainfluenza infection. Most infections in adults and older children go away on their own without any treatment.
Doctors usually treat the symptoms of croup and bronchiolitis appropriately to make breathing easier. Treatment is also recommended if the affected person develops breathing difficulties.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.