Well, we hope everyone is having a very merry Summer! While the temperatures may reflect the time of year as do the cook outs and lake/pool side days we hope you’re all enjoying, the illnesses your children may be experiencing CERTAINLY DO NOT.
A little insight: Typically in July we here at Pediatric Associates are worried that no one likes us anymore. We sit around waiting for patients to come in with illnesses that we can diagnose intermixed with the seasonal sports physicals and well child check ups. And those illnesses are often few and far between. This has been a predictable pattern in pediatrics for some time. Not this year.
You may have heard of the term “viral respiratory season.” This refers to the time frame from late Fall to early Spring when we are inundated with illnesses such as rhinovirus, enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (the dreaded “RSV”), and influenza. Let’s spare the dorky epidemiologic details for now on why we normally see these viruses predominate from Fall-Spring and focus more on WHY IN THE WORLD ARE WE SEEING THEM NOW???!!!!!
While the timing is unusual, the spike is somewhat logical. The pandemic hit, sending people inside and behind masks in the Spring of 2020. The following viral season (Fall 2020-early Spring 2021) respiratory illnesses like RSV and influenza circulated at historically low levels.
After Spring Break in Abilene mitigation strategies (masking in schools, social distancing, etc) began to be relaxed and we started to see a rise in some of these illnesses….though, thankfully, influenza has remained at very low prevalence. This all meant that kids came back into contact with pathogens (viruses in this case) that have been out there, but whose spread was very limited throughout the pandemic.
Across the south particularly, RSV cases began to rise around the end of April. Here in Abilene, we really started to see numbers get high over the last 1-2 months. We also had a mini Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease “epidemic” here in Abilene in May and June which has seemed to slow. At the end of last month RSV case counts were incredibly high for the summer, however, it has been about on par with what we typically see in the Winter months. A similar trend was seen in Australia and South Africa’s summer seasons (remember, those southern hemisphere’s do seasons a little differently than we do).
SO WHAT NOW:
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that predictions in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which no one alive today has lived through are pretty difficult to make. Understandably this has led to frustration in the general public and sometimes even some distrust. The reality is, however, this is the way that science works 100% of the time: collect data, make a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and make conclusions. Unfortunately, with us being in the middle of a pandemic, recommendations need to be made at the same time that they are being ongoingly tested. This naturally means that they will change over time as we move forward and learn more.
Remember, RSV is somewhat like a cold for most children that get it, but it does like to work its way down into the lungs of some. Click here for more helpful details. You’ll know this is likely if your child is working harder to breathe. Look for belly breathing, sinking in under the rib cage and between the ribs as well as above the collar bones (clavicles) or breast bone (sternum). It often creates a lot of drainage and makes it difficult for younger kids to nurse or bottle feed well. We’re a phone call away if you’re seeing things that are concerning.
Will RSV stay around through the rest of the summer and into its normal fall and winter months? Will RSV completely flop it’s epidemiologic calendar and start circulating in the summer every year? The truth is, we’ll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime…..we are here. We are ready to care for your sick ones. Yes, we’re tired just like you. But we’re all in this together….still.