SDC Pena Back at School Illnesses HERO


Colds and Other Viruses Await Kids as They Return to School

Every parent of a school-aged child knows the drill. With the start of the new school year, inevitably comes a veritable viral stew of cold, flu, COVID-19 and intestinal viruses, among others.


Kids pick them up in their classrooms, cafeterias and playgrounds and then (very nicely!) share them with the rest of the family at home. A single sniffle triggers instant dread as the child’s parent envisions another round of sick days, doctor’s office visits, prescription pick-ups, medication schedules and more.


So what viruses should parents be watching for this school year? Resource editors spoke with Santiago Peña, DSc, PA-C, a physician assistant with Baptist Health Urgent Care Express in Coral Springs, who says that, three years later, COVID-19 is still a concern.


Resource: Schools and playgrounds are a breeding ground for all sorts of viruses. What are you seeing at Urgent Care Express now?


Santiago Peña, DSc, PA-C, a physician assistant with Baptist Health Urgent Care Express in Coral Springs


Mr. Peña: Currently, we’re seeing a noticeable increase in COVID-19 cases and we expect this to continue to increase. The new Eris variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S., appears to be better at avoiding antibodies we may have developed from vaccination or prior COVID-19 infection. We’re seeing a fair amount of strep throat and also some cases of influenza, which like last year has persisted past the typical flu season. We’re also seeing infectious mononucleosis, and skin infections such as impetigo, a bacterial infection most common in young children.


Resource: Should we still be worried about COVID-19 and its latest variant?


Mr. Peña: We should continue to take measures to prevent transmission of the disease, as it can easily cause severe illness in the vulnerable percentage of the population, not to mention impact healthcare resources. A recent column in American Family Physician states that, although 70 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, only 32 percent of children aged 5 to 11 have received the vaccine. Now that kids are back in school, I think we’ll continue to see a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases here at Urgent Care Express.


Resource: What about COVID tests – are they still reliable?


Mr. Peña: If your child is experiencing typical COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and cough, you can test them yourself with an at-home antigen test. These tests are very specific so a positive test is reliable. However, if your child tests negative on these at-home kits but has typical symptoms and/or has been exposed, it’s best they undergo more sensitive testing to make sure. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests – the “gold standard” for COVID-19 tests, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) – are available at all of our Urgent Care Express locations.


Resource: Are there any early indications on what sort of flu season we can expect this year?


Mr. Peña: Last year, the cases of influenza had a large spike early in the summer that persisted well into the fall and winter, which is our typical flu season. This year, influenza again has persisted into the summer months, though it’s apparently not as prevalent as last year. As we get into flu season, however, I expect to see a steady increase. The influenza patients I’ve seen have appeared more ill, usually with a higher fever of 102 to 103 F. 


Resource: Speaking of flu, when will this year’s vaccine be available?


Mr. Peña: There is no firm information yet, as the vaccines are still being manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies as we speak. But from my understanding, they will be available starting in late September. I encourage people of all ages to get the flu vaccine. Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express locations throughout South Florida will be offering the flu vaccine for the entire family. More information on flu shots is available on our Flu Vaccine page.


Resource: What about RSV, which was a big concern this time last year?


Mr. Peña: RSV commonly causes many respiratory illnesses this time of year and can cause serious illness, especially in the very young or elderly. We have not seen many cases at our Coral Springs location yet but anticipate typical numbers this season. 


Resource: What services do you offer to diagnose all of these different viruses?


Mr. Peña: At Urgent Care Express, we can test for influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), strep throat, infectious mononucleosis and RSV. We can also perform x-rays and can culture wounds, throats and urine to identify bacteria.


Resource: Why should a parent bring their ailing child to Urgent Care Express?


Mr. Peña: Our providers and staff pride themselves on providing high-quality, compassionate care. At Urgent Care Express, we can provide accurate and timely diagnosis of the child’s condition, as well as immediate treatment options that can reduce their likelihood of their developing severe illness. Also, Urgent Care Express is a convenient option for busy parents. We’re open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and more than likely we have a location near you.


No matter what your child picks up at school – illness or injury – Baptist Health is ready to help your family stay healthy, happy and on schedule throughout the year.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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