What’s Going Around: Flu season arrives, stomach bug persists

Flu season has arrived in the Midstate.

This week, WellSpan Medical Group providers are seeing an increase in suspected flu cases. They’re also seeing an increase in upper respiratory illnesses.

WellSpan Medical Group is continuing to stress the importance of annual flu vaccinations; the best defense against the flu. Anyone looking to schedule their flu vaccine may contact their primary care provider. For additional information, visit www.WellSpan.org.

UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics reports they are also seeing the beginning of flu season.

Influenza, or “the flu,” is not the same thing as the stomach virus. Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said most cases of influenza start out with high fever and chills and body aches. There may be some vomiting but it is not typically the main symptom. Respiratory symptoms such as nasal congestion, cough, sore throat also develop with influenza. The most prominent symptom is often the muscle aches and malaise, which means you feel very ill. The fevers are often high and persistent.

It is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, Zimmerman said. Influenza shots are still available as recommended.

“Many people don’t realize that influenza kills people every year,” Zimmerman said. “Last year over 100 children died from it. The vaccine provides protection from many strains of influenza, and even though it is not 100 percent perfect, it is still better to have some protection than none.”

Zimmerman also reported there is still a stomach virus going around, with vomiting being the main symptom.

Providers at Summit Health’s Urgent Care facilities in Cumberland and Franklin counties continue to see high numbers of children with upper respiratory illnesses and the stomach bug.

If it seems like the stomach bug has been going around for a while, there’s a reason for that. Providers say that because some of the viruses can last up to two weeks, and multiple family members are succumbing to it, it can literally last in your home for months.

Many upper respiratory viruses go away on their own, but in some cases, a medical professional may need to have a listen.

Here are some of Summit’s do’s and don’t’s when it comes to coughing kids:

*Medical experts do not recommend using over-the-counter cough medications. These can give kids bad reactions. In fact, combining cough syrup and pain relievers can result in an overdose of a shared ingredient.

*Using a cold mist humidifier can help alleviate coughing at night, but make sure you are emptying the water between uses and disinfecting regularly. Otherwise, unhealthy bacteria could be circulated, aggravating the cough.

*Don’t use medicated nose drops or sprays. They provide only brief relief and may worsen congestion if used for more than two to three days. Saline nasal sprays are recommended.

*And remember, a child is likely to get between six and 12 colds in a year, so it’s helpful to have some of the key essentials on hand at all times.

*Of course if symptoms don’t seem to be improving, it’s important to get the cough checked.

Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics has seen a high number of viral colds and sinusitis cases. Bronchiolitis is also on the rise in babies and young toddlers. Strep throat continues to be a problem, as well as asthma exacerbations, pneumonia and mono in the school-aged and teen population.

There was a decrease in croup and stomach bug cases this week.

Dr. Joan Thode said enlarged lymph nodes are a normal part of colds and other illnesses. She said some misinformation on social media about enlarged lymph nodes has made some of her pediatric patients panic.

She offered the following information about enlarged lymph nodes:

“Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck are very common but can be particularly bothersome and painful in kids and adults alike. These nodes also can become concerning to parents when they seem to remain enlarged for longer than expected.

Lymph nodes are immune tissue. If you think about the immune system as the military defense of the body, lymph nodes are like military base camps. Though we most often become aware of the lymph nodes in our neck, we actually have lymph nodes all over our body. When the immune system starts battling a virus or bacteria in a specific place in the body, the troops (immune cells) get sent to the closest military base (lymph node) as part of the military attack on the offending infection. As a result, the lymph node gets bigger.

The immune system military needs an average of three to five days to vanquish a viral infection — sometimes longer for a bacterial infection. The lymph node swelling, though, slowly decreases over a week or two after the battle is won. Frequently, particularly with lymph nodes in the back of the neck and back of the head in toddlers, the lymph nodes can remain enlarged and palpable for weeks.

The signs of a benign lymph node include: mobility, small size (about 1 cm or less in diameter), small number and resolution in time. A benign node feels like a marble under the skin that slides a bit when pressed, as if it’s a balloon attached on a short string. Don’t forget that it takes some time for the size of a lymph node to decrease after an illness.

The signs of a potentially concerning lymph node include: large size, overlying skin redness, non-mobility, “squishiness” when pressed, a high number of nodes and nodes that do not resolve after the child has been well for three to four weeks. Rarely, the lymph nodes themselves can get infected, which can cause the node to have a “squishy” feel like a water balloon and redness of the skin over the node. These lymph nodes should be evaluated by a physician, as an infected lymph node needs treatment with antibiotics. Large lymph nodes or nodes that do not move when pressed also should be evaluated by your child’s doctor.

Cancer is the rarest cause of enlarged lymph nodes, particularly in the pediatric population. Signs could include multiple lymph nodes in more than one area of the body or large lymph nodes that are not mobile. The cause for these symptoms is much more likely a body-wide infection like mono or possibly other anatomy that isn’t even a lymph node. Even though it is unlikely to be cancer, multiple or very large nodes persisting in a non-sick child should be evaluated.

As a rule, fevers lasting beyond five consecutive days also should be evaluated in the doctor’s office.”

Geisinger Holy Spirit Pediatrics in Cumberland and Dauphin counties reports gastroenteritis, cough, and dry skin complaints.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Duncannon is seeing a lot of upper respiratory infections.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Carlisle is seeing the common cold and upper respiratory issues.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Mechanicsburg is reporting coughs, colds, urinary tract infections and GI issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s