“When kids get back to school, not only are they sharing their stories, they're sharing their germs,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, chief of pediatrics with Baystate Health.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- School’s back in session and we’ve noticed a lot of sore throats and runny noses, which causes many parents to think their child has COVID-19, but there are still other viruses out there as well.

“When kids get back to school, not only are they sharing their stories, they're sharing their germs,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, chief of pediatrics with Baystate Health.

Now, pediatrician’s offices are seeing their seasonal rise in calls. COVID-19 remains a concern on many parents’ minds, but other viruses are still spreading around and it may be hard to tell the difference.

“COVID-19 can really masquerade like anything...It can be a fever and a cough, it can be diarrhea and belly pain,” O’Reilly noted.

So how do you know when to get your child tested? We took that question to O'Reilly and he told Western Mass News that parents should look for patterns.

“If it’s a sudden onset of a really just a sore throat, a fever, some swollen lymph nodes without the cold and the cough, boy, your child probably needs to get a strep test. If they’ve had a slowly building runny nose, cough, and maybe a low-grade fever, I think we should test for COVID, but I’m not as worried about strep throat,” O’Reilly explained.

Of course, if you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Kids that are getting stomach bugs probably will need a COVID test just because we're seeing those cases,” O’Reilly explained.

O'Reilly added that now is a good time to get your flu shot.

“We should be protecting our kids now from the flu. We don’t want our kids to have been going through COVID, perhaps have some residual inflammation in their lungs and then get influenza on top of it,” O’Reilly said.

O'Reilly told Western Mass News they’re starting to see cases of some viruses, such as bronchiolitis, a few months earlier than they typically do and he said you can help prevent the spread of these illnesses by following the same protocols we’ve been using to prevent COVID-19: washing your hands often, avoid touching your face and, most importantly, by wearing a mask.

“I think what we learned last winter is that the mask is not only an incredible prevention for COVID-19, it really prevented a lot of the illnesses that usually fill up pediatricians waiting rooms. As a parent, really encourage your child to wear a mask,” O’Reilly said.

If you have any questions, O'Reilly said it’s important to talk to your pediatrician.

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