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Adjusting to life without masks means a busy time for pediatricians treating viral illness, strep

Adjusting to life without masks means a busy time for pediatricians treating viral illness, strep
The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be over, but the aftermath continues as pediatricians stay busy with children carrying other viruses and also the bacterial infection known as strep.
“We are seeing significant increases in many viral infections. In large part this is due to the fact that for the past 3 years everybody was wearing masks. This is the first true cold and flu season since the pandemic started.  As a result we are seeing kids coming in with more cold/upper respiratory infections than in previous years,” Neena Tripathy, MD, FAAP, Primary Care at Carle Urbana on Windsor, said.

Aaron Traeger, MD, in Pediatrics at Carle BroMenn Outpatient Center in Bloomington said some refer to this time as “immune debt” where individuals are having to make up for time not exposed to illness. Andrea Kane, MD, works with Traeger and she agrees saying that patients are just more susceptible to exposed infections now.

“More recently, we are seeing an uptick in strep throat, which is a bacterial infection common among school-aged kids. The strep bacteria lives in the nose and throat and easily spread by droplets through coughing, sneezing and talking in a school setting and there is no way to develop an immunity to it,” Dr. Kane said.
In the Bloomington-Normal area, two cases of children inflicted with strep died, according to published reports. “The invasive strep cases in our community are devastating and unpredictable. Unfortunately, we cannot predict who will succumb to this severe disease.  It isn’t just strep throat.  A child may have a very bright red rash diffusely, fever, lethargy, jaundice, and lack of urine output. Basically, they look very ill very fast.  If that is the concern, seek emergent care in an emergency room setting,” Dr. Kane said.

Typical viral illness and strep throat are not more worrisome now than in the past, Dr. Kane said. Strep symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, belly ache and often a lack of cold symptoms. A child with those symptoms should be tested for strep.
“We still advise parents to monitor their children for signs of dehydration and respiratory distress. If parents worry about their sick child, reach out to the child’s pediatrician or primary care provider,” Kane said.
Dr. Traeger said underlying conditions such as asthma, living a less active lifestyle or being overweight can contribute to kids being sicker as can poor nutrition, poor sleep, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Dr. Kane said if a child has a sore throat without improvement after five to seven days and the strep test is negative, she starts thinking about mononucleosis, a viral illness with severe sore throat and possibly other symptoms of viral illness such as fatigue, lymph node swelling and fever.
All three physicians say prevention still boils down to hand washing, staying away from others who are ill and staying home if you feel sick.
Dr. Tripathy said making sure children are eating/drinking heathy foods and getting enough sleep is also important for parents to remember. She anticipates illness will lessen as the weather stays consistently warm and children go outdoors.
As for wearing a mask to protect against the spread of illness, Dr. Traeger said, “Generally most people are not high risk for severe illness, but if you are, or if you do not want to get sick, go ahead and wear a face covering if you like.”

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, pediatrics