AHN Pediatricians Provide Guidance this Holiday Season Amid National Uptick in Viral Respiratory Infections, Flu Cases

PITTSBURGH (December 6,2023) – Pediatricians across Allegheny Health Network (AHN) are providing useful guidance for parents and caregivers this holiday season amid a local uptick in pediatric cases of respiratory viral infections and influenza.

“Our AHN outpatient pediatric offices have seen an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza, which tracks with what we’re seeing nationally, and we anticipate these numbers will continue to rise this month as we gather and travel for the holidays,” said Joseph Aracri, DO, Chair of AHN Pediatric Institute. “The AHN Pediatric Institute is available to support and help families navigate this season and address any areas of concern.”

Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported national increases in cases of RSV, influenza and COVID-19. And in Pennsylvania, weekly RSV cases have nearly tripled since early November, while Allegheny County is reporting the state’s highest flu totals.

RSV is a common cause of mild cold-like symptoms, but it can be dangerous for infants and older people, causing lung infections and trouble breathing in severe cases. Symptoms associated with respiratory viruses in children include runny nose, decrease in appetite, cough, fever and wheezing.

Dr. Aracri, alongside his peers throughout the AHN Pediatric Institute, offers the following guidance for families as the number of respiratory infections continue to rise both locally and nationally:

  • Treat the symptoms – there are no antibiotics for these viruses; the best approach is to make your children comfortable by treating their symptoms with appropriate over-the-counter medication, rest and plenty of fluids. Lukewarm baths also help with reducing mild to moderate fevers and nasal aspirators can clear excess mucus. Always consult your pediatrician’s office for specific questions or concerns and remember that some viruses can last up to two weeks.
  • Recognize when to head to the emergency room – if your child has a rectal temperature higher than 104°F (or 100.4 °F if younger than three months), trouble breathing, abdominal pain, extreme lethargy and/or persistent vomiting or diarrhea, we recommend seeking immediate, emergent care at the nearest emergency room. For a full list of AHN emergency/urgent care locations, visit https://www.ahn.org/locations.
  • Rely on your pediatric team for support – if you have any questions or concerns outside of emergency circumstances, we strongly encourage you to reach out to your pediatric team. AHN maintains a 24/7 pediatric nurse line for families and provides same-day/next-day appointments for children who need to be seen in person. To reach the AHN nurse on call, contact your pediatrician’s office direct line to be connected.
  • Practice preventive measures – during the holiday season, it’s important to wash your hands frequently and help little ones develop a vigilant hand washing routine, maintain social distance when appropriate, and stay home if under the weather.  The most impactful preventive measure, however, is to stay up to date with vaccinations for all members of the household. To schedule your child’s vaccinations for COVID-19 or influenza, contact your pediatrician’s office directly.

“While it’s important to follow preventive measures and practice good health hygiene, it’s just as important to maintain normal routines and encourage socialization around the holidays,” continued Dr. Aracri. “This season is an opportunity for children to enjoy spending time with family, friends and loved ones, while also participating in festive activities at school or daycare.”

A recent study published in JAMA (doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.39355) also indicated that children are much less likely to contract COVID-19 in a childcare environment, compared to when a family member becomes ill. Transmission rates at childcare centers among those studied remained between 2 and 3 percent, while 50 percent transmission rate was found when COVID was on the home front.

To schedule a new patient visit with AHN and establish your care team, call 412-DOCTORS.

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