ContentsSynopsisCodesLook ForDiagnostic PearlsDifferential Diagnosis & PitfallsBest TestsManagement PearlsTherapyReferencesView all Images (2)
Parainfluenza virus infection
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Parainfluenza virus infection

Contributors: James J. Douglas MD, FRCPC, Sagar A. Vaidya MD, PhD, Ricardo M. La Hoz MD, Lowell A. Goldsmith MD, MPH
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Parainfluenza viruses are a family of single-stranded enveloped RNA viruses that are a common cause of upper and lower respiratory illnesses, most often seen in children. The family is divided into 5 subtypes; type 3 is the most common. By the age of 5 most children have experienced parainfluenza infection. Parainfluenza can be spread via direct person-to-person contact or large droplet inhalation and has an incubation period ranging from 2 to 6 days. In healthy children, parainfluenza is responsible for mild upper respiratory tract illnesses, otitis media, bronchiolitis, croup, and occasionally interstitial pneumonitis and pneumonia. In immunocompetent adults, clinically it usually appears as a mild, self-limited upper respiratory tract infection, although it can also lead to community-acquired pneumonia. Parainfluenza is also linked to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations and rarely with aseptic meningitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

In elderly, HIV-positive, and immunocompromised individuals, including adult and pediatric solid organ transplant (SOT) recipients, hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients, and patients with primary immunodeficiency, parainfluenza can cause severe upper respiratory tract illnesses along with pneumonia and interstitial pneumonitis, which can be fatal.

  • Cough, often barking
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Rhinorrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Rales/rhonchi
  • Fever above 38°C (100.4°F)
  • Irritability
  • Stridor
  • Dyspnea
Risk factors for severe disease:
  • Infants
  • T-cell immune defects (SOT, HSCT, and primary immunodeficiencies)


J12.2 – Parainfluenza virus pneumonia

12188008 – Parainfluenza

Look For

Subscription Required

Diagnostic Pearls

Subscription Required

Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

Best Tests

Subscription Required

Management Pearls

Subscription Required


Subscription Required


Subscription Required

Last Updated:03/25/2020
Copyright © 2021 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.
Parainfluenza virus infection
Parainfluenza virus infection (Older Child/Adult) : Fever, Hoarseness, Rhinorrhea, Pharyngitis
Copyright © 2021 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.