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Winter illnesses spiking months earlier than normal

Cold, flu, RSV cases already on the rise
Back to school illnesses.png
Posted at 7:49 AM, Aug 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-29 10:49:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- Health care professionals are advising parents to have their PTO ["Personal Time Off"] days ready, as they anticipate a significant spike in back-to-school illnesses. They said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are already trickling into other pediatric seasonal illnesses.

If you have noticed that your child has been a bit more sniffly this summer, you are not alone.

"COVID has thrown everything out of whack," Dr. John Bradley, Infectious Diseases Director at Rady Children's Hospital, said. "We are worried that there will be a lot of school absences."

Dr. Bradley and other health care professionals across the country are noticing that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the seasonal illnesses calendar up quite a bit.

"When everybody was on lockdown, none of the kids were getting their usual exposures to colds. So the immunity that they would've gotten from these common viruses did not happen. So they remain very susceptible to all of these viruses," Dr. Bradley said.

These sicknesses include the common cold, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus [RSV], a respiratory illness that can cause pneumonia in infants. These viruses usually spread in winter, when children spend most of their time indoors. But because of COVID-19, children from daycare to high school age are just now getting exposed.

"We're expecting a huge increase in RSV infections," Dr. Bradley said.

Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego started giving monoclonal treatments for RSV patients on Monday, when usually they wait until November 15. They are also seeing children suffer from multiple viral infections.

"In the hospital now, we have a two-year-old that has rhinovirus or the common cold, Para-Influenza type 3, and COVID," Dr. Bradley said.

Bradley said the problem with these viruses is that they all present similar symptoms.

"You have to test," Dr. Bradley said. "There is no way that a child with a common cold and those symptoms can be differentiated with a child with COVID. Testing is the only way."

Once you figure out what your child has, Bradley said, act accordingly.

If it is COVID-19, your child must quarantine, away from siblings, for several days. If it is not, stay out of school just until symptoms and fever go away.

"We will get through this, and once the [COVID] vaccine comes out for the school-age kids, boy, it will be so much easier to prevent infection at that point," Dr. Bradley said.