Doctors across Cook Children’s medical system are urging parents to follow guidelines for children experiencing minor respiratory symptoms before seeking emergency treatment, according to a Nov. 10 news release.

What you need to know

Cook Children’s Medical Centers in Fort Worth and Prosper as well as its seven Urgent Care Clinics are experiencing an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses, such as respiratory syncytial virus, the flu and COVID-19. The influx is leading to overcrowded waiting rooms and extended wait times.

“This is higher than historical volumes in years past and is certainly enough capacity to stretch our resources and to overburden them and create some wait times within our clinics,” Dr. Amy Richardson said during a press conference.

As of Nov. 8, about 97.6% of Cook Children’s pediatric beds were occupied in Dallas-Fort Worth, said Laura Van Hoosier, assistant vice president of public relations and communications.

Learn more

Following these guidelines can reduce traffic to Cook Children’s emergency departments and Urgent Care clinics while reducing wait times and exposure to respiratory viruses.

Seek immediate care if:
  • An infant under 2 months old has a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A child is breathing faster than usual or the skin between ribs is being sucked in
  • A child is requiring frequent use of their albuterol rescue inhaler or is having worsening asthma symptoms
  • A baby is dehydrated (parents will see fewer wet diapers or a lack of tears from a dehydrated baby)
For children experiencing mild respiratory symptoms without difficulty breathing or dehydration, parents are encouraged to call their pediatrician first. The pediatrician’s office can help parents decide next steps to take, according to the news release.

Doctors can also assess and treat patients via virtual health appointments available to book on Cook Children’s website.

Parents should contact their pediatrician if they need a test for RSV, the flu or COVID-19, according to the news release.

Quote of note

“The big things that we want to stress is if your child is having minor symptoms—cough, cold symptoms. If they have minor fevers, ... please reach out to your pediatrician first,” Dr. Taylor Louden said. “Discuss with them if they think that you need an urgent care visit or if you need to go see their pediatrician, but please limit the emergency department for those severe emergencies because it makes it very difficult to care for kids that really need us the most during these times.”

The details

Earlier in November, more than 200 patients tested positive for RSV illness, according to the news release. The emergency department at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth is seeing more than 500 patients a day. An additional 800 patients are seeking treatment at one of Cook Children’s seven Urgent Care Clinics every day across the metroplex.

The numbers are expected to rise as hospitals approach peak respiratory illness season, according to the news release.

Zooming out

In October, Children’s Health hospitals across Dallas-Fort Worth also reported an uptick in RSV cases. Hospitals saw cases double between the week of Sept. 24 and the week of Oct. 8.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe symptoms and require hospitalization.