‘We are in a November flu wave,’ says medical director of after-hours kids’ care

November 20, 2023
Little boy holding stuffed animal gets his temperature checked.
Flu symptoms include a fever, chills, a cough, a runny/stuffy nose and tiredness. Photo by Sarah Pack

If you want to know if flu season has started, look no further than the three MUSC Children’s Health After Hours Care clinics. “We are in a November flu wave,” said medical director Shana Bondo, M.D.

“We open at our clinics around 3:00 p.m., and for going on two weeks now, are seeing 10 to 15 arrivals per hour, which if you do the math, that means we have upwards of 30, 40 patients easily by 5 or 6:00 p.m.”

Not all of those kids have influenza. “It’s flu and other respiratory viruses. We're seeing a lot of the younger infants with respiratory symptoms that are more significant, meaning they're wheezing or actually need help with their breathing.”

Nurses keep an eye out for kids like those who need immediate help. Other children, who are sick but not in a crisis, are seen in order of arrival. And because the volume is so high, the wait may be longer than usual. That’s something Bondo wants to communicate with the public about.

Woman with shoulder length brown hair and a blue v necked sweater smiles. She's Dr. Shana Bondo 
Dr. Shana Bondo

“I think sometimes as a mom or dad, it's frustrating to come in and be told there's a wait. I totally get that. But realize that behind the scenes, our nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, whoever's back there, everyone is running and trying their best to get to each patient as efficiently as possible while offering quality-driven care.”

Bondo said the after-hours clinics still have shorter waits than an emergency department, and they’re important resources for families whose pediatricians couldn’t squeeze them in at all. 

“We know there aren't many other places in town where they can walk in and be seen. So it's a balance, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience,” she said.

That said, she encouraged families to consider all of their options. “So try your primary care office, see what advice they have for you. Do they have appointments? Do they have over-the-phone advice that can be specific to you and help you keep your child home and safe? And obviously if that doesn't work out, or there's no availability, then that's what we're there for.”

She said virtual care visits are also an option for children whose parents want advice but don’t necessarily need an in-person visit. “A good candidate would be an older school-age child who has fever, cough, runny nose, something that seems like a common viral illness. They're not in any distress. They're able to drink fluid, but they can't go to school because they're sick. And the school does require that all important school note. Those are great reasons to visit virtual urgent care.”

But she knows that figuring out when to go to a clinic can be tricky. There are resources that can help. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of emergency warning signs for parents and other caregivers of children who have the flu.

And Bondo said there’s no question that children who have maladies such as ear infections or possible pneumonia need to be seen in person at a pediatric clinic such as MUSC Children’s Health’s After Hours Care. 

The medical teams in those clinics are adjusting to their busier days and evenings, knowing the change is seasonal. “In the old days it would only be on certain days that we’d get super busy. You know, like Sundays everyone wanted to get their child in and be seen and evaluated before the school week. Now we see that almost every day.”

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