Pediatric offices are swamped right now! The first months of the new year always mean children have colds, RSV, flu, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, and strep throat, just to name a few of the illnesses “lurking” around right now.
What I don’t understand is why a day care and schools send out notices to let parents know that there are cases of flu, strep, or RSV in the class? It seems that this just causes “alarm” for parents who are now worried that their child has been “exposed” to a myriad of illnesses. These are common winter illnesses and are probably present in most schools right now, as well as offices, malls, libraries, grocery stores and almost any place you go. This means that we are all often being exposed and keep PRAYING that our bodies don’t decide to catch that cold right now, but you can’t worry about it everyday.
Of course parents want to protect their children from germs, but germs are a fact of life and trying to “pinpoint” if your child got a cold from their school mate or from some one in their carpool or day care class is really an exercise in futility. It also raises anxiety. Most of the germs we are talking about are airborne and can be picked up almost anywhere. Frustrating yes, life threatening - thankfully rarely.
Of course schools have the responsibility of notifying parents if there is a case of meningitis, or measles in the class or even if their child’s class has had an outbreak of whooping cough. In some cases it is appropriate to try and give “prophylactic” antibiotics to known exposures. These can be truly life threatening diseases. But, with this being said, thanks to vaccines, bacterial meningitis and measles are a rare occurrence and updating those pertussis vaccines should help the whooping cough epidemic. Yes, vaccines really do save lives.
I just wish I knew how to calm a bit of the anxiety that parents feel about their child getting sick. If your child has a cold, yes it could be RSV, but it could also be rhinovirus or parainfluenza virus and naming the virus does not change the treatment. Most of the treatment for all of these winter illnesses is totally symptomatic, that means fluids, fever control, time.....and watching. It may take several days for them to start feeling better. If your child has any difficulty breathing, has color change (remember red is good blue is BAD) or shows signs of dehydration they need to be seen. It is a good idea to call your child’s pediatrician and talk to the nurse about their symptoms if you are worried before heading to sit in an ER unnecessarily. Save the ER visit for true emergencies which will help speed up how quickly patients are triaged and seen. Only about 10 more weeks of “sick season”, but who’s counting?