CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — An unusual surge in respiratory illnesses is flooding Chicago area emergency rooms.
“Here at Lurie Children's, our inpatient hospital volumes have been between 85 and 96% of our bed capacity for months,” Dr. Tom Shanley, president and CEO of Lurie Children’s Hospital, told WBBM Newsradio.
The majority of pediatric patients being admitted to the hospital are not coming in with COVID-19, but rather viral illnesses like RSV, which is typically seen in the winter.
“Our emergency room visits have surpassed volumes that we have seen at the beginning of previous school years and resemble the influx of patients that we typically see in January,” added Dr. Frank Belmonte, chief medical officer of Advocate Children’s Hospital.
Comer Children’s Hospital also reports a three to five-fold increase in the number of children with respiratory illnesses in its emergency room.
The influx of ER visits has caused a dramatic increase in wait times and doctors worry if the trend continues, they won’t be able to treat serious pediatric cases.
“Time after time, we have stated our children and our youth are our most precious resources and protecting them includes ensuring that those critical specialized levels of healthcare delivery and service are available when needed,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told WBBM Newsradio.
That’s why Chicago area doctors are pleading with parents not to bring their kids to hospital emergency rooms unless absolutely necessary.
“If you are not sure if your child is seriously ill, we want you to err on the side of seeking that emergency care,” Dr. Alison Arwady with the Chicago Department of Public Health said. “But if you're looking for a COVID test, if you're looking for reassurance, if you're able to connect with your primary care provider or an outpatient practice first, that is where we want you to start.”
Information about COVID-19 testing sites in Illinois and Chicago is available online.
Dr. Lauren Smith, associate chief medical officer at UI Health, added that a majority of pediatric respiratory illnesses, like RSV, influenza or COVID-19, can be safely managed at home.
“Symptoms of cough, runny nose, congestion, fevers are expected and can best be managed with adequate rest, staying well hydrated and appropriately dosed with fever medication,” Smith said.