HONOLULU (KHON2) — Kids with respiratory illness are filling the hospital, much sicker than normal.

That’s the word from Kapiolani Medical Center and other pediatricians as cold viruses, the flu and COVID are circulating in the islands. It’s something that’s being seen across the country: respiratory illnesses causing children’s hospitals to crowd and the CDC to issue an alert.

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“We’re starting to see so many colds,” pediatrician Dr. Amy Harpstrite said. “I think that’s probably been going on, it seemed like it started when kids went back to school, but then it’s really ramped up in the last month or so.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said “In August 2022, clinicians in several geographic areas notified CDC of an increase in hospitalizations of pediatric patients with severe respiratory illness and positive rhinovirus/enterovirus (RV/EV) test results,”

Doctors are concerned about the severity they’re seeing.

“Some of them are sicker than what we usually see,” Kapiolani Medical Center pediatric hospitalist Dr. Maya Maxym said. “This has been going on for a few weeks, and our respiratory cases seem to be higher than the usual kind of busy seasons that we were used to pre-COVID. And although Hawaii overall has less seasonality than other places in the United States, it’s still very early in the season to be seeing this much respiratory disease.”

According to Dr. Harpstrite, children are having a tougher time recovering.

“We’re just seeing sick kids that just you know the symptoms, fevers are lasting longer, so much more congestion, the cough is really wearing out the kids,” she said.

The Hawaii Department of Education urges sick children to stay home and get tested for COVID-19, which is a juggling act for many parents who deal with mounting absences and work schedules.

“That’s made it even more difficult because not only are they at home and you’re trying to deal with them and help them get better, but I’ve gotten sick more times since I’ve had kids the last two years than I feel in the previous 10 years combined,” father of two young children Sean Newsome said.

But the viruses are often contagious if symptoms are present, especially fever. Dr. Harpstrite warns that the spread can continue.

“Parents are like, I just am over this. I want them back in school, but then you just have to see that that’s causing that vicious cycle where parents are sending their kids to school when they really shouldn’t be and then that’s affecting other kids,” Dr. Harpstrite said.

Many of the illnesses come with a cough, which Dr, Maxym says to monitor to see if your child is in need of a physician’s care. More information is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Maxym explained:

“There are two things that happen commonly with RSV and other respiratory viruses in young children. One is that they have a hard time breathing. So if the parents are seeing that the breathing is fast and labored, or that children who are old enough to talk that they can’t say an entire sentence without catching their breath, then that’s definitely one thing to look out for. And the other thing is that often when children can’t breathe, and especially young babies, but even older kids do, they don’t drink well. And so you should be watching out for dehydration as a consequence of the hard time breathing. A good rule of thumb that I like to say is that if you have half of your usual weight of wet diapers, you’re probably okay and you should keep pushing fluids. But if you have less than that, it’s definitely time to seek care.”

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She notes that Kapiolani is able to provide care to anybody who needs it.