What’s Going Around: Strep throat, stomach bugs and seasonal allergies

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UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics in Camp Hill reports they’re seeing a lot of ear infections.

“Often they present as ear pain that comes on suddenly after a week of stuffy nose or cold symptoms,” Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said. “A true ear infection requires antibiotics because it is caused by bacteria. But there are many causes of ear pain that are not infection, such as pressure on the ear from sinus and nasal congestion. This could be from a virus, like the common cold, or from allergies. Sometimes ear pain is actually referred pain from a sore throat or from a dental problem.”

If your child is complaining of ear pain it is best to have their medical provider examine them to see what the cause is, Zimmerman said. If it is not an ear infection, then antibiotics won’t help and should not be used. Your doctor might recommend something else to relieve the pain.

Pediatricians at Penn State Children’s Hospital say there has been a significant drop in flu cases. They are seeing the common cold and some cases of viral upper respiratory infections.

Pediatricians and nurses at clinical sites in Lancaster and Cumberland counties report that they aren’t seeing recent flu cases, but are seeing a lot of patients with strep throat. They are also getting quite a few patients with viral upper respiratory infections.

This week at Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics, they continued to see sore throats, with strep still accounting for 40 to 50 percent of these cases.

Allergy symptoms also have been steadily rising, and colds have held steady. As colds and allergies have persisted, we also have seen an increase in asthma exacerbations and wheezing.

The flu has continued to decline, though we still are seeing some cases of flu and flu-like illnesses.

The stomach bug has been steady since last week.

Croup has been seen a bit more this week, though overall incidence is still pretty low.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about wheezing and asthma:

“Colds and other viral illnesses are a very common trigger for asthmatics, and it’s also common for an asthmatic to have seasonal allergies. Sometimes the combination of allergies with viruses can cause significant increase in the incidence of asthma ‘attacks.’

Wheezing is a high-pitched, whistle-like sound, either with inhale or exhale, that is related to inflammation in the small air passages of the lungs. Inflammation is caused by the immune system attacking a threat or perceived threat, and the result can be a partial or complete closure of the small airways.

Any case of wheezing should be evaluated by a physician, as wheezing-regardless of the source-indicates inhibited air flow through the lungs. Many, but not all, cases of wheezing can be helped with nebulizer or inhaler treatments, though sometimes other interventions are needed. If you notice sustained fast breathing, using the belly to breathe, having an exaggerated expansion of the ribcage with every breath (called “retractions”), inability to eat or drink due to the fast breathing, and/or any purple or blue color around the mouth or lips, call your child’s doctor right away.

Asthma is a chronic condition of either frequent flares of this inflammation or a more persistent, smoldering inflammation. The classification of asthma depends on the severity and frequency of wheezing and other symptoms. Some children require daily medications. If your child has any form of asthma, spring is an important time to watch for worsening symptoms, as pollen counts are high and increase the chances of worsening lung inflammation. Kids with asthma require more frequent testing and follow-up with their doctor to ensure that their treatment is optimized and their lungs do not sustain damage due to chronic inflammation.”

This week, WellSpan Medical Group providers continue to see cases of strep throat.

For those affected, using tissues that can be thrown away instead of handkerchiefs, frequent handwashing and following respiratory etiquette practices can avoid spreading the illness to others.

For strep prevention, WellSpan Medical Group providers recommend frequent handwashing, as the bacteria can live for a short time on doorknobs, water faucets and other objects. They also recommend not drinking from the same glass or using the same eating utensils as an infected individual.

Those seeking care for respiratory illnesses at any WellSpan care site are encouraged to adhere to respiratory etiquette practices. Techniques such as coughing into the inside of your elbow, frequent handwashing with antibacterial soaps for 20 to 30 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell, are recommended to help prevent the spread of illness in public and at home.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Dauphin and York counties reports upper respiratory infections, the flu and gastrointestinal bugs.

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