Pediatricians report increase in upper respiratory infection cases

Children returned to the classroom after the holidays but school nurses are sending some of them back home because of illness.
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 4:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 8:53 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Children returned to the classroom after the holidays but school nurses are sending some of them back home because of illness.

Doctors say they are seeing an uptick in illness after children spent time off with friends and family at holiday gatherings.

Dr. Kenneth Perry with Trident Health has treated several pediatric patients in the emergency room for dehydration this week. Perry says symptoms like congestion or nausea and vomiting make them not want to eat or drink anything.

Perry says many kids are also coming in with high fevers. These sick patients have diagnosis that are across the board from the flu to strep throat.

He says depending on the child and the virus, they can be out of school for two to five days.

For many of the symptoms, there are not many treatment options, he says. A virus must run its course, so in many cases, doctors can only prescribe medication like Motrin to help bring down a fever.

“At two o’clock in the morning when their child is coming in with an ear infection, it’s a really difficult feeling when we don’t have an antibiotic, or an antibiotic isn’t the appropriate right step,” Perry says. “So, it’s certainly something that we want to make sure that everyone knows and understands that they might come in and we’ll be able to certainly treat them, but not every time is an antibiotic appropriate.”

But Perry calls the current spike in sickness normal and expects things to calm down in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, he says COVID cases are down.

On Wednesday, Chrissy Smalls’ second grader was sent home from school with what was later determined to be strep throat.

“The school said that she couldn’t swallow anything, so that was very concerning to me. Very painful, she couldn’t lift her tongue at all,” Smalls said.

For this mom who’s also a nurse, her child getting sick wasn’t a big surprise.

Smalls said, “School is just kicking back in this week, so sitting at home being around all your other family and friends that you haven’t seen for a while, all of those germs just kind of roam around in the air, so I mean it’s bound to happen.”

As far as what’s causing parents to bring in their child to the ER instead of their typical pediatrician: dehydration.

“Many of these viruses will cause kids to not be able to eat or drink. Either they’re congested and are drinking from a bottle, which makes it very difficult, or they’re older but they’re having nausea or vomiting, and they don’t want to eat or drink.”

Perry says in most cases, an antibiotic isn’t the fix, and a virus has to run its course.

“We don’t have medications that can just fix a virus, so the only thing we really have are things like Tylenol, Motrin, antipyretics, things that help bring the fever down, and then other medications for nausea and vomiting,” Perry said.

He believes this sickness spike will calm down in the next few weeks.