What's Going Around: flu, stomach bug and breathing troubles

It was a busy holiday season with sick visits at Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics.

They report very high numbers of viral illnesses, ear infections, coughs, and sore throats. Of those, about 35 percent were diagnosed as strep throat.

The recent cough causes have included croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia in moderate numbers, in keeping with recent prior weeks.

They also have seen a sharp increase in asthma exacerbations as illness rates have increased and the weather has gotten colder.

Viral gastroenteritis, or the stomach bug, has been seen in high numbers in the last two weeks. In most of their patients, symptoms only lasted a day or two.

In addition, the flu has come to Roseville, with several confirmed cases in children.

Dr. Joan Thode issued the following reminders to parents:

"It's still not too late to get your child vaccinated against the flu. The flu is deadly to all ages of children, and even though it's not perfect, having gotten the flu shot often causes a shorter and less severe flu course. The vast majority of pediatric flu deaths each year are in children who did not get the flu shot.

The immune system often will fight off a virus in three to four days, though it is normal to have a longer recovery period of lingering symptoms after the acute illness improves. For gastroenteritis, loose stools can last a few days to a week after acute symptoms improve. For upper respiratory infections, pneumonias and bronchiolitis, the wet-sounding cough can persist for seven to 10 days longer, as the lungs and nasal passages clear accumulated mucous. During the slower recovery phase, it's important to have your child evaluated if their fever returns before the symptoms have fully improved.

In all ages, fevers lasting longer than four days should be evaluated in the office. Fever in any baby younger than two months is a medical emergency."

WellSpan Medical Group providers are seeing an uptick in the number of flu cases. In addition, providers continue to see cases of the stomach bug, with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, as well as cold-induced asthma and bronchitis.

WellSpan Medical Group providers would like to stress that it is not too late to get a flu shot. Anyone looking to schedule their flu vaccine may contact their primary care provider.

Those affected by the viral gastrointestinal illness should stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids, they said. Slowly feeding ice pops or drinks such as Pedialyte may help, especially with children. If symptoms do not improve after two days, WellSpan Medical Group providers recommend seeking medical care.

To help reduce the risk of infection for this and other common illnesses this time of year, they suggest techniques such as coughing into the inside of your elbow, frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces such as counters and door knobs and even grocery carts before shopping. It is recommended to wash hands with antibacterial soaps for 20 to 30 seconds or to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell. For those with respiratory conditions, such as cold-induced asthma, placing a scarf or cold-weather mask over your nose and mouth when outside in the cold to humidify the air may help.

This week, Summit Health facilities in Cumberland and Franklin counties report treating several confirmed cases of the flu. As numbers of people with the virus continue to rise, providers with Summit Health wants to make sure community members know where to seek the appropriate level of care.

The flu and common cold can have similar symptoms, including fever, body aches, fatigue and cough. Generally, symptoms of flu are more intense.

People who get the flu should rest, stay hydrated and avoid contact with the public until at least 24 hours after their fever has broken without the aid of fever-reducing medicine.

Most people who become sick with influenza will experience mild to moderate symptoms. For those who seek treatment, but who are unable to be seen by their primary-care provider, Summit Health offers several options for convenient, same-day care:

• Summit Primary Care & Walk-in - Waynesboro Medical Office Building

• Summit Primary Care & Walk-in - John L. Grove Medical Center

• Summit FastCare

• Chambersburg Urgent Care

• Shippensburg Urgent Care

For more information, including the number of patients waiting to be seen at each location, click here.

Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience severe or life-threatening symptoms, including:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Purple or blue discoloration of the lips

• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting

• Seizures

• Flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and cough

Geisinger Holy Spirit Pediatrics in Cumberland and Dauphin counties reports a stomach bug with vomiting and diarrhea, the flu and RSV. They said this is also a prime time of year for eczema flares and dry skin complaints.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, has also been going around at UPMC Pinnacle's Heritage Pedatrics in Camp Hill. This is a virus that can cause heavy mucousy cold symptoms in anyone, but causes more wheezing and respiratory problems in younger children and infants.

"They often start with a fever, sometimes over 102 degrees F, for three to five days, then heavy upper respiratory congestion and nasal mucous," Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said. "Then the cough starts out the fifth day some wheezing can be heard or they may appear to be breathing faster or be working harder to breathe."

If your child is having a worsening cough or trouble with breathing, Zimmerman said you should call your doctor right away.

RSV is spread through the air as respiratory droplets, so avoid having your young child near other adults or children with bad coughs or fevers.

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