Here’s what illnesses Austin-area doctors say are circulating this holiday season

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As winter approaches and COVID-19 spread continues, you might be wondering what other illnesses you should be cautious of this season.

KXAN News Today anchor Sally Hernandez talked to local ER physician Dr. Suneet Singh, Medical Director for virtual company CareHive Health to find some answers.

What’s going around right now?

Hernandez: Which illnesses are you seeing this time of year?

Singh: We’re starting to see respiratory infections such as the common cold and bronchitis increase over the past two weeks. Allergy counts are relatively low this time of year, though occasionally trees and molds spike up. Interestingly, there is currently a salmonella outbreak that affects multiple states, including Texas. The outbreak has been traced back to contaminated onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Hernandez: What are the symptoms of those illnesses?

Singh: Respiratory infections cause runny noses, sore throats, and coughs that sometimes bring up mucus. In general, people tend to feel tired as well and they may or may not have a fever. Salmonella causes stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fevers. In severe cases, the diarrhea will appear bloody.

Hernandez: What is the treatment?

Singh: The treatment for respiratory infections tends to be to treat the symptoms while the body takes care of it. Staying well hydrated, using throat lozenges, and over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen for pain or fever control. The average respiratory infection lasts for 7-11 days but sometimes up to 14 days. Symptoms that last longer might require antibiotics in case the cause is bacterial and not viral. For salmonella, most people also recover without any specific treatment. Similar to the treatment of respiratory infections, staying hydrated and using Tylenol or ibuprofen for pain and fever control is all that is needed. People with salmonella tend to get better without treatment after 4-7 days. Longer or more severe symptoms might require antibiotics.

Hernandez: Should you treat at home or see a doctor for the illnesses?

Singh: In general, both respiratory illnesses and salmonella can be managed safely at home without the need for a doctor’s visit. Severe symptoms, though, should warrant a trip to the doctor. In the cases of respiratory illnesses, this is when symptoms are progressively getting worse, especially after 10 days. In addition, any difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing are reasons to seek medical attention. For salmonella, patients should seek medical attention if they experience bloody diarrhea, high fevers (such as greater than 102), or uncontrollable vomiting. Signs of dehydration such as decreased urination, dry mouth, or dizziness (especially upon standing) are also reasons to seek medical attention.

People with salmonella tend to develop symptoms anytime from six hours to six days after consuming contaminated food (onions, in this case). The CDC reports there have been over 800 cases to date with Texas being the most affected state with over 200 cases. In addition to all that is written, people should continue to remain aware of COVID, especially if demonstrating respiratory symptoms.

Should kids get the COVID-19 vaccine if they are sick?

Dr. Sunaina Suhaga pediatrician at Austin Regional Clinic, said “we’ve seen a rise in RSV cases and colds which is typical this time of year. These types of illnesses often produce a runny nose, sore throat, and cough. If your child gets an upper respiratory virus or cold, the best thing for them to do is to stay home, drink lots of fluids, and rest.”

She also says they have seen very few flu cases so far this year. KXAN asked Dr. Suhag if kids should delay getting the COVID-19 vaccine if they are ill.

“There is no need to delay your child’s COVID-19 vaccine if they have a very mild cold such as a runny nose,” said Dr. Suhag. “But if your child is running a fever or very tired, best to wait a few days until they are feeling better.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Winnie Whitaker, Interim Medical Director Emergency Department at Dell Children’s Medical Center, said she’s also seeing a lot of respiratory viruses, anything from the common cold to bronchitis.

Hernandez: What’s the treatment? 

Whitaker: Usually just supportive care. We recommend nasal saline and suctioning, fever-reducing medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen and encouraging fluid intake. Sometimes a humidifier can help with symptoms.

Hernandez: Should you treat at home or see a doctor for the illnesses? 

Whitaker: Most illnesses can be treated at home, but we recommend seeing a doctor for rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, any color change, poor feeding or concern for dehydration, and lethargy.

Hernandez: Can your child take the COVID-19 vaccine if they are sick?

Hernandez: We recommend waiting until patients are feeling well without symptoms of illness before getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This helps decrease confusion in diagnosis in case a child develops side effects after vaccination.

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