It can be scary for parents with everything in the news about the heightened flu season, combined with risks for RSV and then throw COVID on top of it and it’s no wonder parents are worried.
We sat down with Dr. Michael Terkildsen, affectionately known as “Dr. T”, of Lake Forest Pediatrics to help make sense of it all:
This year has definitely been unique compared to previous years–in a normal year we see the RSV and flu season hit more in the winter from December/January to March/April. One of the concerning factors this year is we are seeing all three of these viral infections in the fall which is very uncommon. This probably has to do with kids being back in daycare and schools and being unmasked for the first time in a while. Since it is hard to discern among them as all three can have respiratory manifestations, it is paramount to focus on prevention. The best way to prevent flu and COVID is by getting vaccinated. The COVID vaccine is currently approved for those 6 months of age and older for the primary series, and the newer bivalent, omicron-containing booster is recommended for children aged 5 and up. It can be given at least two months after the primary vaccine series or from the previous booster. Parents should know the bivalent shot can only be given as a booster and not in place of the primary series. The influenza vaccine is widely available as well and hopefully will be a good match for the strains circulating this year. Since RSV and flu can be spread by droplet/contact and COVID through the air it is also important to also focus on good hygiene such as hand washing and sanitizing surfaces. And, obviously, minimize contact with those who are sick. As much as people might not want to hear it, masking does still help.
RSV, which causes a condition called bronchiolitis and is most concerning for those under the age of two, can start by just looking like a cold. However, in the younger kids it can cause wheezing and labored breathing. In older kids, it usually just causes a bad cough and fever. The seasonal flu usually starts with high fever, cough, achiness, and headache. It hits “hard and fast”. The challenge with COVID is it can present with any symptoms. It is more of a “generalized picture” illness. The only way to truly tell if it is COVID is with a test. At Lake Forest Pediatrics we can test for all three viruses with rapid tests that are available in all three of our offices. For the most part, all three are treated with symptomatic care such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen for fever, maybe use a humidifier as well. However, if there are relatively mild symptoms, often no treatment is needed as all three are viruses and generally resolve on their own without any intervention. For Influenza, there is an anti-viral medication called Tamiflu that may be helpful, and can be discussed at the office visit.
The biggest question is always when should I bring my child into the office. If you’re not sure about if you should come in or not it is best to call the practice and talk to our Patient Educators. They are nurses who are trained in telephone triage and are available to help guide you with next steps. You can also send a message through the patient portal. Finally, you can just show up for sick call each day from 8-9am, or call for a same day appointment. If your child has labored breathing, they should be seen in the office. We want to make sure their oxygen levels aren’t too low.
Again, the best preventive strategy is to get your children vaccinated for Flu and COVID, as well as practice good hygiene such as hand washing and sanitizing surfaces. Finally, try to avoid being around others who are sick. We know it’s hard as these infections can sometimes be contagious for a day or two before symptoms are even present, and we all know you can be asymptomatic but still be positive for COVID. We are here to help!
Dr. Terkildsen has been with Lake Forest Pediatrics since 2004 and typically works out of the Vernon Hills and Lake Bluff offices.
Even in these crazy, busy times he still loves working with families to optimize their children’s overall health and well-being.
Choosing a pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you will make in your child’s life.
We are open 365 days a year – with medical professionals on call 24 hours a day – to provide the care your family deserves. Morning sick call care is available without an appointment.
We provide a full range of medical services for all children from newborn to age 22. In addition to sick and well-child care, we also offer lactation counseling, annual sports and school physicals, and ADHD treatment.