Pediatricians seeing surge of respiratory illnesses in kids

MADISON (WKOW) — Doctors are seeing more sick patients right now, and it’s been linked to pandemic precautions like masks and the disappearance of social distancing.

“We had a year, maybe a year and a half, with very little upper respiratory disease, and we’re now seeing a little bit of everything at once,” Dr. Dan Beardmore, a pediatrician at SSM Health in Janesville, said. “Some kids get multiple things or back-to-back things.”

He said he sees children coming in with croup, gastrointestinal viruses and colds, but only some of those illnesses are common in the summer.

“I’ve had some parents tell me things like, ‘It sounds like a croupy cough, but that’s not right because it’s summer,'” he said. “Well, that’s exactly what we think too, but it’s still croup. We’re seeing things from their usual seasons.”

While it’s not common for doctors to see these diseases at this time of year, Beardmore said this year’s increase didn’t surprise him and other doctors.

“We were more or less prepared for this as a medical community,” he said.

dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, said these viruses are now spreading more as communities reopen and there are fewer precautions in the pandemic era.

“Staying at home and taking physical distance and wearing masks were enough to really eradicate the threat of many cold and flu viruses,” he said. “Normal human behavior of people interacting and exposed to respiratory droplets is increasing.”

Beardmore said that because most people haven’t been exposed to those viruses in the past year, they haven’t built up an immunity, meaning they get sick. However, he said this year’s illnesses are no more serious.

“I don’t think this year and a half has necessarily weakened our immune systems or made us weaker as humans to fight these things,” he said. “That’s not what we see and not what we expect.”

Both doctors said they both expect respiratory viruses to spread widely this fall, and Beardmore said parents should prepare for their children to be sick more often.

“Some of these parents may be surprised this summer and fall that the stuff that would have been scattered over an entire year could potentially be crammed together,” he said. “Just think of everything and be prepared for everything now.”

Beardmore said the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly and cover your coughs and sneezes.

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