Pediatrician Offices Overwhelmed with Patients

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(Graphic by Chloe Choi)

Chloe Choi, Centerspread Editor

 Pediatricians across the US have been overwhelmed with the early flu season and nervous parents on top of the already stressful fall scheduled with patients’ physicals. 

“My friend and I were saying this is the worst winter we’ve had in our 18 years of practice,” pediatrician Dr. Marjorie Hsu-Moon said. 

The flu season typically occurs during December and January, because many families travel for the winter holiday season. Over the past several months travel plans have been postponed due to the pandemic and many Americans went to social gatherings for Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

One factor contributing to the unusually potent flu season is the lack of time to immunize the pediatric population. 

“I would say probably around 50% [of my patients have been vaccinated against the flu],” Hsu said, “but it would be more if the flu had hit later.”  

Although most pediatricians’ offices and pharmacies had received their flu vaccines on time this year, the early flu season decreased the amount of time people had to get immunized against the flu before they could catch it. 

Due to the pandemic, many people’s exposure to germs has decreased and weakened their immune systems. 

“People have been used to their kids not being sick, but in reality when kids go to daycare or go to school they get sick every two weeks. Over the past two years people haven’t been getting sick at all,” Hsu explained.

The large numbers of flu-related patients have been added on top of the regular fall physical exams that many kids have annually. Many parents and children didn’t feel comfortable coming into the doctor’s office for regular checkups during the pandemic over COVID concerns. 

“When it was COVID times nobody wanted to come in for their physical at all because they didn’t want to get sick. But life goes on. People need their physicals for school sports, for their jobs, for their classes so that’s why they’re coming in for their physicals now,” Hsu said. 

Because many patients waited a couple years to get their physicals and the environment is safer, many are visiting now, some waiting months just to get an appointment. 

Now, with so many people getting sick, it’s important to keep symptoms in mind. 

Common flu symptoms include a fever lasting longer than five days, urinating three times or less in 24 hours, diarrhea, vomiting, breathing hard and fast, and blue lips in young children. If symptoms worsen, talk with your pediatrician. 

“Teenagers are notorious for not drinking enough liquids when they get sick,” Hsu said. “They don’t want to eat, they just want to lie there. The main thing is that you stay hydrated. If they’re not eating, they have to drink something with salt and sugar. … It’s really important to get the fluids in.”

To help reduce overcrowded doctors’ offices, staying healthy is more important than ever. Getting vaccinated is one way to stay protected against various diseases. Stores such as Target, Rite-Aid, or Ralphs all offer flu vaccines and will accept insurance to get the vaccine.