BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Last year many respiratory illnesses like the flu and the common cold took a back seat to the coronavirus. Health officials said back in March that the previous flu season was “minimal” compared to other years, likely thanks to increasing protective measures and also distance learning.
While school districts have been working to protect students and faculty from the COVID-19 virus and delta variant, health officials are reminding parents to be on guard for other illnesses.
“The fall is coming and that usually when you see a lot more respiratory diseases crop up,” said Ann Walker, Public Health Nurse and Immunization Coordinator. “So it’s just going to be something that we’ll just have to wait and see.”
With school back in session and in-person this year, health experts say we’re likely to see an increase in seasonal respiratory illnesses. While these illnesses aren’t especially dangerous for school-aged children, they can be problematic to younger siblings or older relatives.
“With the mask requirement for schools, hopefully, that will help to decrease some of those illnesses we see in children, some of those respiratory illnesses,” Walker said. “But again it’s unknown at this point.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, as the government began easing COVID-19 precautions, cases of respiratory viruses began rising, especially in recent weeks from April to July. Because flu vaccines are generally based on influenza streams that circulated in the previous season, there are some concerns the vaccine may not be as effective this coming season.
So as kids return to school, it’s important to not only monitor for COVID-19 symptoms but all respiratory diseases.
“I think most of us feel pretty comfortable, especially if they continue to mask. But you know with children, masking and making sure they don’t cross-contaminate is very difficult, and can actually cause more trouble,” said Terri Church, Chief Nursing Officer for Dignity Health. “You know, if they drop the mask on the floor and pick it up, it can cause more damage. So we’ve talked about well should we just forgo mask-wearing and do social distancing.”
Health officials are urging parents to reminds kids to wash their hands often, keep their masks on when indoors and around others, and closely monitor them. If your child does start showing symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or a running nose, even if its not COVID-19, they still need to stay home until they recover.