Infants and children with HIV infection or AIDS need the same things as other children -- lots of love and affection. Small children need to be held, played with, kissed, hugged, fed, and rocked to sleep. As they grow, they need to play, have friends, and go to school, just like other kids. Kids with HIV are still kids, and need to be treated like any other kids in the family.
Kids with AIDS need much of the same care that grown-ups with AIDS need, but there are a few extra things to look out for.
- Watch for any changes in health or the way the child acts.
If you notice anything unusual for that child, let the doctor know. For a child with AIDS, little problems can become big problems very quickly. Watch for breathing problems, fever, unusual sleepiness, diarrhea, or changes in how much they eat. Talk to the child's doctor about what else to look for and when to report it.
- Talk to the doctor before the child gets any immunizations (including oral polio vaccine) or booster shots. Some vaccines could make the child sick. No child with HIV or anyone in the household should ever take oral polio vaccine.
- Stuffed and furry toys can hold dirt and might hide germs that can make the child sick. Plastic and washable toys are better. If the child has any stuffed toys, wash them in a washing machine often and keep them as clean as possible.
- Keep the child away from litter boxes and sandboxes that a pet or other animal might have been in.
- Ask the child's doctor what to do about pets that might be in the house.
- Try to keep the child from getting infectious diseases, especially chickenpox. If the child with HIV infection gets near somebody with chickenpox, tell the child's doctor right away. Chickenpox can kill a child with AIDS.
- Bandage any cuts or scrapes quickly and completely after washing with soap and warm water. Use gloves if the child is bleeding.
Taking care of a child who is sick is very hard for people who love that child. You will need help and emotional support. You are not alone. There are people who can help you get through this.