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Pediatricians reporting huge decrease in common illnesses among kids

Posted at 9:32 AM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 09:32:11-05

Is the common cold, stomach flu or ear infection gone? Not necessarily, but pediatricians are seeing a huge decrease in regular illnesses in children.

“If there is such a thing as a silver lining from the pandemic, I think what it would be is that we all know how to protect ourselves from illness,” said Dr. Tanya Altmann.

She's a pediatrician in the Los Angeles area and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a mom of 3 and an author, she is definitely busy, but she's not seeing the volume of cases she usually sees this time of year.

"We’re wearing masks, we’re staying away from others, we’re hand washing, we're disinfecting even in areas where kids are in daycare, preschools and school; the schools are doing such a good job keeping things clean and disinfected, keeping kids apart, that we’re seeing much fewer illnesses across the board than we have in past winters.”

And she says, that holds true across the country.

“We’re seeing much less flu than we normally would this time of year," Altmann said.

That is likely because kids aren't mixing and mingling as they once did. And if they are, their families are taking precautions. While it seems the flu season may be mild, she reminds us all that flu season is a marathon, not a sprint. Which means, don't forget that flu shot.

“We also don’t know what will happen if you get more than one at once and I personally feel we’ll see a lot more severe illness if kids are getting or if parents are getting COVID on top of flu or COVID on top of rhinovirus or other illnesses," Altmann said.

When we asked if a lack of illness is a good thing for the human immune system, she said not to worry.

“I would say no, because you’re still exposed to things everyday your immune system is amazing and its building up and being exposed to things and making antibodies everyday. Even newborns born in a pandemic and isolated at home their immune system is still building up everyday,” Altmann said.

A reminder that while it seems like we're in a forever Groundhog Day, it's a short blip in a lifespan.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering