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Cold or COVID-19? Novant pediatrician says kids spreading more than COVID-19 right now

Colds, the flu, croup, Rhinovirus, strep throat, RSV, Roseola and hand-foot-and-mouth are all back, with cases appearing at a Charlotte-area practice.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With kids back in school and sports and birthday parties back in full swing, it comes as no surprise that kids are getting sick more often.

But for parents, it’s quite a headache. Kids have to stay home, get tested for COVID-19, with results typically taking days.

So, what exactly is going around? WCNC Charlotte spoke with Dr. Sumon Bhowmick, a pediatrician with Novant Health Waverly Pediatrics and Primary Care to find out.

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“What’s old is new again,” Dr. Bhowmick said.

After seeing hardly any cases in 2020, he says colds, the flu, croup, Rhinovirus, strep throat, RSV, Roseola, and hand-foot-and-mouth are all back, with cases appearing at his practice.

“We’re seeing a huge uptick in all the classic respiratory illnesses that get transmitted just during this time of year,” he said, saying that it’s a direct correlation to people being around each other again.

Dr. Bhowmick said while the common cold is common, today’s world is simply more complicated.

“We just have this specter or this cloud of COVID-19 on top of everything else that’s going on, which is why in the past we would be maybe a little bit more cavalier, that if maybe we have a stuffy nose or if we’re congested we’ll still go to school and just try to power through,” he said. “The new recommendations are if you feel sick in any way or if you’re a little under the weather, stay home.”

If your child attends preschool or is in school, they likely have to test negative for COVID-19 before returning, leaving parents like Maya Robinson-Napier feeling fatigued.

RELATED: Mecklenburg County preparing to administer Pfizer COVID-19 boosters next week

She says her kids missed 7 days of school, needing to get tested twice, which she says meant hours waiting in line, plus multiple co-pays for sick virtual visits. In the end, she says her kids were negative for COVID-19.

So when should you definitely get tested for COVID-19?

“What can maybe help make the decision for us, is obviously exposure,” Dr. Bhowmic said. “If we know someone who has had any exposure and then you start having these non-specific symptoms of feeling run down or fever, runny nose, congestion, headache, feeling warn down like you’ve just been hit by a truck – those are all symptoms that are associated with a lot of viruses -- but if it’s lasting longer than a couple of days and all of the treatment methods that you typically do with your fluids and rehydration and rest and chicken soup and all the things that you’re supposed to do when you feel bad and it’s not working – that’s when you need to come and see us so we can help make that decision.”

A decision, he said, can be hard for parents whose kids may just have a runny nose.

“A COVID-19 test is something that will give us a lot of good information, but it also comes with its own set of rules and restrictions right, if you get tested for COVID-19, then you have to stay home until we get the test results back,” he said.

Unless your child was directly exposed to COVID-19, Dr. Bhowmick recommends seeing your pediatrician, who can quickly help you rule out the long list of other possibilities.  

“We have the ability test for all of those rapid and send out labs for respiratory viruses, even some bacteria, strep, RSV, Flu, COVID of course,” he said.

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Contact Ashley Daley at adaley@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.