North Texas pediatricians being overwhelmed with sick children

North Texas pediatrician offices are being overwhelmed with sick children, which is something that is highly unusual for the summer season.

Masks were definitely effective at keeping kids healthier. But now with so many masks off, there is not much immunity against typical seasonal viruses. That may be causing viruses to spread faster than normal.

Dr. Charles Dunlap with Pediatric Associates of Dallas is echoing what pediatricians around the country are seeing right now: a dramatic rise in childhood illnesses.

"We're seeing increase winter levels of RSV, significant outbreak of hand foot and mouth virus, rhinovirus and even some summer flu," he said.

And all of this is happening before school starts.

"Quite the perfect storm, in my opinion," the doctor said.

COVID-19 vaccines

Last week, Children's Health says 249 kids tested positive for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Cook Children's saw 190 RSV cases. 

Dr. Dunlap says RSV is most serious for babies and toddlers.

"For kids younger than that 2 and infants, it causes a syndrome we call bronchiolitis, which is mucus production in lower airways, wheezing, respiratory distress and rapid breathing," he said. "It’s serious enough to hospitalize children."

Dr. Dunlap is a big supporter of masking up, but he does point to a correlation between masking and the summer spike in the virus. 

"Masking might delay the inevitable, but it’s the protective value when people could not get vaccinated," he said. "The benefits outweigh the negatives, even if delaying some of the regular illnesses."

On top of that, pediatric hospitals are still seeing an increase in hospitalizations for COVID. 

Children's Health has 22 children hospitalized for COVID while Cook Children's has 23 hospitalizations. 

Between COVID and RSV, Dr. Dunlap advises parents to never hesitate to call if their child is having trouble breathing. 

"If you're worried your child is struggling, that may be a 911 call," he said. "But most of the time if just coughing breathing fast, a pediatrician is the first choice." 

Dr. Dunlap urges parents to be patient with wait times when they call their pediatrician for non-urgent matters. He says it is still a good idea for people to keep their well visit appointments.