Canadian kids are getting sick at record levels. This expert isn’t sure when it will end

An empty shelf where children's cold medicine should be. (Photo courtesy Ellin Bessner)

As winter approaches and flu season begins, Canadians—especially children—are facing a significant health crisis. Top doctors in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba have all urged people to wear masks in public, mostly because children’s hospitals are overwhelmed, cancelling surgeries and scrambling to open new ICUs for kids to handle the flood of young patients.

The triple threat is not just COVID-19, but also RSV and the flu. And because so many people have stayed socially distanced these past two years, the rush of infections is hitting earlier and harder than usual, cutting swaths through classrooms. Meanwhile, exasperated parents seeking pain medicine for their kids are finding empty shelves in their pharmacies, while doctors are reporting a shortage of children’s antibiotics.

It’s a perfect storm in an already overburdened health care system—and Dr. Kevin Schwartz is right in the thick of it. An infectious-diseases expert and a pediatrician, he works at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto and recently published a study showing how wearing a mask during the pandemic significantly cut down cases of airborne illnesses. Schwartz joins today to explain how masks and vaccines are badly needed, and how Canadian parents can get through this tough winter.

What we talked about:


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