Finding Relief for Back to School Illnesses

Although it’s only September, Advanced Practice Provider Barbara Baynard is already seeing an increase in the number of sick children coming into her BetterMed office in Ashland. Colds, flus, pink eye, strep throat and stomach viruses are among the most common complaints as children head back to school.

“Children are more vulnerable to getting sick this time of year because they are in close quarters with each other, which makes it easier for germs to spread,” she said. “Younger children tend to get sick more frequently. We see strep throat and conjunctivitis [pink eye] more in the younger population because they often share toys and drinks.”

Maintaining healthy habits—washing hands frequently, exercising, following a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep—can go a long way toward preventing childhood illnesses, she said. Also, keeping children home when they are sick can help stem the spread of disease to others, and provide an opportunity for them to properly rest and recover.

Barbara Baynard

Barbara Baynard, PA-C

“Children should stay at home when they have fever, vomiting or diarrhea. They should be symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school,” she said. It’s time to see a doctor “if symptoms continue or worsen, or if they have a fever for three days with no other symptoms.”

BetterMed offers expert and convenient care for these young patients and their families. The practice’s six locations in Central Virginia are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week.

“Our extended hours make it convenient for patients to be evaluated after their primary care physician offices close, so parents do not have to take off work,” said Baynard. No appointments are necessary, and “on average we are able to see our patients in an hour or less.” 

At each location, BetterMed’s healthcare providers can access multiple diagnostic tools, including x-rays and bloodwork as well as strep, flu, RSV, mono and urine tests. Among other things, such tests can help determine if antibiotics are necessary.

“People are often confused about the difference between a virus versus a bacterial infection,” said Baynard. “A virus—such as a cold or flu–will improve by treating the symptoms and does not need an antibiotic.” Strep throat, meanwhile, is an example of a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

When coping with the stress of having a sick child, parents appreciate that caring approach of BetterMed providers. Baynard and the other providers make follow-up calls to check on patients two days after a visit, to see if they are improving and answer questions or concerns.

“Multiple times I have had patients tell me they have been referred by someone who has already used our facility,” she said. “At BetterMed, we strive to have excellent customer service and make the visit as comfortable as possible.”

Barbara Baynard, PA-C, graduated from James Madison University with a major in Health Science and a minor in Nutrition. She continued at JMU in the Physician Assistant master’s program for two more years. While attending JMU, she volunteered for the Harrisonburg Rescue Squad for four years. Barbara has more than 5 years of Emergency Medicine experience and previously worked in the Emergency Department at Bon Secours Richmond Health System.