Cook Children’s Medical Centers in Fort Worth and Prosper, as well as Cook Children’s Urgent Care Centers throughout the metroplex, are experiencing high volumes due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and COVID-19. Many infants are experiencing severe RSV illness, with hospitals struggling to find a bed for all of them.
Of the more than 800 patients tested for RSV last week at Cook Children’s, more than 200 (29%) were positive. Four percent of those tested for COVID-19 were positive. The Emergency Department (ED) at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth is treating more than 500 patients a day. An additional 800 patients a day are seeking treatment at one of Cook Children’s seven Urgent Care Centers (UCCs). The influx is leading to over-crowded waiting rooms and long wait times across the board.
These numbers are expected to climb as we move closer to peak respiratory illness season, typically December through January.
Parents and caregivers can help reduce the stress on the system by knowing when to call your child’s physician and when to seek emergency care. Doctors say following these guidelines can reduce traffic to EDs and UCCs, reduce wait times for patients and reduce your child’s exposure to viruses.
Many viral respiratory illnesses can be treated at home with rest and lots of hydration. If you are concerned, call your pediatrician first if your child is experiencing mild symptoms without difficulty breathing or dehydration, or for illness-related symptoms (ear pain, sore throat, diarrhea or vomiting, rash, cough or other non-urgent health concerns). The pediatrician’s office can help you decide what steps to take.
In many cases, physicians can assess and treat a patient via a virtual health appointment. Not only is this a convenient option that saves time, but it keeps you and your child out of a waiting room where they could pick up another virus on top of the one they already have.
Download the MyCookChildrens app to schedule a virtual health/telemedicine appointment here.
Parents should not go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department for an RSV, flu or COVID test. Your pediatrician can test for all of these.
When to Seek Immediate Care:
● Any temperature greater than 100.4 in an infant under two months of age is considered a medical emergency. If your child has a fever for more than three days, contact your pediatrician or visit an urgent care center.
● Concerns for dehydration. In dehydrated babies, parents will see fewer wet diapers or a lack of tears. Their flat spot can also appear more sunken.
● Your child is breathing faster than usual or you can see the skin between the ribs being sucked in.
● If your child is requiring frequent use of their albuterol rescue inhaler or is having worsening asthma symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of RSV in infants younger than 6 months may include:
● Poor feeding
● Episodes where they stop breathing
Infants and children over 6 months may experience:
● Runny nose
● Loss of appetite
● Sometimes wheezing
Flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms as RSV and may also include sore throat, headaches, body aches, chills and change/loss of taste and smell.
When it comes to respiratory illnesses, prevention is always the best medicine, especially as we approach the holidays and the many indoor gatherings they bring. Vaccines can help reduce the spread and severity of illness and prevent hospitalization. It’s not too late to get your child’s flu shot or COVID vaccine. Call your pediatrician to make an appointment.
Remind your children to practice healthy habits such as washing their hands and coughing into a tissue or their elbow. If you or your child feels sick, stay home to prevent spreading illness, take time to rest and stay hydrated with lots of fluids.