When It’s More than Just a Cold, Pediatric Specialists are Prepared
With sick kids in close quarters at school and icy conditions priming them for injury, concerned parents can have confidence that great pediatric care is close to home, especially in an emergency.
At our main campus emergency department, we have pediatric experts, a separate kid-friendly waiting area, and a zone of private rooms to help calm and soothe our younger patients. In addition, our partnership with the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center means we give you access to pediatric hospitalists available 24/7 for consults and to care for your child should they need to be admitted to the hospital.
Parents of children with milder symptoms associated with cold or flu can call their primary care provider or consider urgent care during off-hours. Dr. José Ponce Ríos, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Services, sees kids with more severe symptoms in the hospital’s emergency department.
“This time of year, we see many respiratory emergencies,” says Dr. Ponce Ríos. “Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza (flu) are two of the most common viruses we see in these winter months and they can be very serious for younger patients.”
RSV is transmitted by contact with people who have the virus. One important way to protect your children is having good hand washing habits as well as minimizing contact with people who have cold-like symptoms.
“Most of the older children who have RSV will only present with symptoms of upper respiratory infection, such as runny nose, fever, and cough,” says Dr. Ponce Ríos. “However, younger children – especially those younger than 2 years of age – can develop bronchiolitis, an infection in the part of the lungs called the bronchioles. This infection and inflammation will cause more difficulty breathing as well as cough, wheezing, and sometimes will require hospitalization.”
Some children with specific medical conditions such as extreme prematurity or some heart conditions should be vaccinated against RSV. It’s important to talk to your child’s provider to see if your child is at higher risk of complications from the virus.
Another major player in illness during the winter months is the flu. Flu is a viral infection transmitted through contact with an infected person through secretions or droplets from a cough or a sneeze. It takes about 1-4 days after exposure to come down with symptoms, which are usually fever, aching muscles, sore throat, and dry cough.
“The best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated every year. I do and I have never gotten the flu,” says Dr. Ponce Ríos. “One cannot get sick from the flu vaccine – that is a common myth.”
While most people eventually recover from the flu, the virus can cause other complications such as pneumonia and in severe cases death.
“In the 2017-2018 season, up to October 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 185 pediatric deaths. Eighty percent of these children had not received their flu vaccination. We urge everyone who is eligible to receive their vaccination to do so.”