Signs doctors say you should know about viruses as kids go back to school

PITTSBURGH — The mornings of playing ball with the kids are waning as school starts for a lot of districts.

Staying active, taking vitamins, and eating well are three ways Nikki Bandurski and her family try to stay healthy.

But even with that: “It never fails. It’s bound to happen. Once it hits one, it kinda hits all of us,” said Bandurski, mom of two.

Bandurski and her second and fourth grader all had strep this spring. So she knows what families go through when they try to stop sickness from spreading in and out of their house.

“We try to keep our distance from grandparents and other friends and try to hunker down here,” Bandurski said.

“We always say the second week of September is when cold and flu season starts,” noted Dr. Joseph Aracri, System Chair of Pediatrics for AHN.

He says once kids are back at school for a week or two and they start coming in contact with other kids, that’s when the runny nose, coughs and fevers come back.

When kids are in school, Dr. Aracri says they should get one cold per month. Viruses last about two weeks.

“It shouldn’t be a concern,” said Dr. Aracri. “Children need to get sick to build their immune system. So it’s just part of life, growing.”

Dr. Aracri says you should be concerned when something is different: if kids have a fever for more than three days, a cough or cold that lasts more than two weeks, a sore throat for more than a couple days, ear pain or trouble breathing.

RSV goes around every year and for most people, it’s just a cold, but it can be harder on babies.

Strep made the rounds this summer but Dr. Aracri says it’s calming down. They usually see it around Halloween and Easter.

As for two things you and your family can get a shot to try to prevent: flu and covid.

Dr. Aracri recommends getting a flu shot in September. He says it works 40-60% of the time.

When it comes to covid, he says this fall doctors should get more guidance from the FDA and CDC about whether or not there will be a new covid shot for a new variant.

Last year was rough for sicknesses that went through households during the school year. So we asked Dr. Aracri how he thinks this year will compare:

“I think their immunity will be built up a little more but I am still expecting we’ll probably be a little more dicey than years prior to the pandemic but not as bad as last year.”

We also asked Dr. Aracri if there is any way to prevent the illnesses from spreading to everyone in your house.

He says it’s what doctors always talk about: good handwashing and good hygiene.

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