You don’t have to tell Lisa Daniels cold and flu season is hitting kids hard.
In two days, she drove two kids to the emergency department at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. And every member of her family of six is fighting some kind of bug.
“I didn’t think it was that bad until just about a month ago,” she said. “And then—it’s terrible.”
Doctors report a recent surge in cases of respiratory viruses, particularly RSV—respiratory syncytial virus. Add in the annual uptick in flu cases, and there are a whole lot of sick kiddos out there.
Follow these tips to keep your kids cold- and flu-free this season:
- Teach your child to cover his/her mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Make sure your child washes his/her hands frequently throughout the day when they have a cough or cold.
- When your child has a cold, remind him/her to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
- Teach your child to throw away the tissue right after it has been used.
- If possible, remind your child not to stand too close to another child with a cold.
“Flu cases are starting to pick up,” added Erica Michiels, MD, the associate director of the emergency department at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Typically, about 150 children are treated in a day at the emergency department. In the past couple of weeks, the caseload has run about 170. On Sunday, 214 children were treated.
Spectrum Health Regional Lab reports a steady increase in RSV cases throughout January and February from area hospitals and doctor’s offices.
There were not many flu cases reported in January and early February. But a big jump arrived the week of Feb. 20.
Overall, Kent County flu numbers are lower than last season—at this point. But flu cases are rising. There were 72 cases reported in the week ending Feb. 20—compared with 97 recorded for the entire season before that.
“The whole state is busy,” said Matthew Denenberg, MD, the chief medical director of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “And we are regional support for pediatric services.”
For Daniels, who lives in Greenville, it all started for their family when she and her husband, Ryan, came down with bad colds a few weeks ago.
Later, her 5-month-old son, Thoren, became sick. Then, 18-month-old Zevyn fell ill. Their primary doctor diagnosed both with RSV infections.
When Zevyn developed breathing problems Sunday, she took him to the emergency department. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and an ear infection.
After she got home that night, her two older sons woke up vomiting. She believes Jaxon, 2½, and Aiden, 8, have the flu.
On Monday, Daniels went back to the emergency department with Thoren, who had a possible ear infection.
The number of viral illnesses seen in the emergency department appears to be in line with typical seasonal increase, Dr. Denenberg said.
“It’s a little later this season, maybe,” he said. “RSV came a little bit later. Flu is coming a little later. We don’t really know why.”
Doctors advise parents to take children to the emergency department for life-threatening emergencies. But they also suggest that parents check first with their primary care providers for advice about common cold and flu symptoms—such as fevers, rash, runny nose and cough.
“They might be able to be seen in the office the next day,” Dr. Michiels said.