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West Nile Encephalitis in Children: Care Instructions



West Nile encephalitis is an illness that causes inflammation in the brain. It is caused by the West Nile virus. The virus is carried by mosquitoes. This illness can cause confusion, a high fever, and a severe headache. Other symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, and body aches. West Nile virus is not spread by touching a person who has the virus. Almost all cases are from mosquito bites.

Most people with this illness get better over time. But your child may have some symptoms for several months or longer.

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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Make sure your child eats a balanced diet and gets plenty of rest. This helps the body heal.
  • Follow your doctor's advice on drinking fluids. Too much fluid sometimes can cause more swelling in the brain.
  • Keep the lights dim if your child's eyes are sensitive to light.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a severe headache.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • Your child is nauseated or is vomiting.
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You notice new numbness or weakness in your child.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.