Going back to school means exposure to more germs and bugs, and this year, parents have even more to worry about with the pandemic still raging in parts of the country.
Some D.C.-area pediatricians say they’re busier now than any other time in the pandemic, treating young patients for everything from COVID-19 to the common cold and other respiratory viruses that are circulating.
"With our children in school, with our children in daycare, they are going to be bringing back infection to us as their parents, and we're going to get sick," said Dr. Krupa Playforth.
Nationwide, children make up a third of all COVID-19 cases, but that's not the only thing keeping pediatricians like Playforth busy.
"We're seeing a wide variety of bugs, some that are more typical summer bugs and then some that we actually typically see more in the winter months," Playforth said. "A lot of RSV right now."
Coronavirus cases and the early arrival of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are both having a big effect on Children's National Hospital in D.C., which reached capacity last weekend and had to use space in other parts of the hospital to treat young patients.
"We might have more acute care patients stay in an area in our emergency department," said Dr. David Wessel.
"And then we have surge capacity outside our operating rooms and in recovery areas," Wessel said.
Wessel, the chief medical officer at Children's, warns that wait times in the emergency room could be longer due to the recent surge. But he says the hospital has been planning ahead for this influx of patients and no one will be turned away.
"Our occupancy in the hospital will continue to be near our capacity for the next few weeks," he said. "But we have plans beyond the surge that we're seeing right now and can use other areas of our hospital to expand our beds."
When kids are sick, chances are good that parents feel it, too. And it can hit hard, especially after a year and a half of social distancing and wearing face masks.
"It's not that surprising for children to be bringing home bugs, but this year we're all perhaps a little more hyper vigilant," said Playforth.
That's because COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to other viruses that are circulating right now.
Doctors say the best advice is to stay home if you or your children are sick, and if you're not vaccinated yet, get vaccinated if you're eligible to help ease the strain on area hospitals.
"Any symptom that you have is potentially going to lead you down the quarantine path, but also because we want to decrease the burden on health care workers, on health care facilities," said Playforth.
She said she typically sees more cases of strep throat this time of year, too, with kids returning to school.
Flu season is also right around the corner, and now is the time to get your flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months and older get one.