November 11, 2022 – A sick child from Northern California had to go to Portland, Oregon, to find an ICU bed. An Oregon baby was transferred to Nevada last week due to a shortage of hospital beds. the culprit? respiratory syncytial virusor RSV.
“These stories are not unique and they happen all over the country,” he says. Wendy HassounD., MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. This has been an unprecedented season for respiratory viruses, both in terms of timing and in terms of the number of children infected.
Most children get an RSV before their second birthday. People with a highly contagious respiratory infection usually have the same symptoms as a cold, but can develop potentially life-threatening complications—particularly for infants, those with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.
Hassoun says the previously predictable illness, which usually peaks in January, has peaked Moved up the schedule. It is now experiencing a “crushing rise” two months ago. About 80% of patients in the intensive care unit have RSV. In previous years, the average age of children admitted to the hospital with the virus was less than 2. Now, Hasson says she routinely sees children ages 3 to 5 on the ward.
The recent surge in RSV cases prompted the CDC on November 4 to issue a health advice Alert the public to an escalating disease.
Pediatricians’ offices are overbooked, and at the moment, many parents cannot come to visit a sick child. If you cannot go to the outpatient clinic, it is important to know when it is appropriate to watch and wait at home, or when it is time to head to urgent care or the emergency room. Read on to find out what parents should know as they navigate the latest RSV wave.
Educate yourself about the symptoms
Hassoun says parents should monitor three things in their children to decide if it’s safe to keep them at home, or if they need to see a doctor: breathing, hydration level, and alertness.
It is important to seek medical attention if:
- The child is breathing faster or harder than usual
- The child pulls his neck or rib cage, or uses his tummy to breathe, which you can see by undressing and watching
- Babies grunt or make small noises at the end of each breath
- Babies don’t drink enough nappies and get less than three to four wet nappies a day
- If the child is blue or purple, call 911
Symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus are often worse by days 4 to 6 after infection.
How to help your child at home
Coughing, fever lasting up to 5 days, runny nose, decreased appetite, and chills are among the many normal and overlapping symptoms of multiple viruses, including RSV, according to Houston-area pediatrician Samira Armin. But a fever alone is not a reason to seek immediate medical attention.
“Viruses need to run their course, and prescription and antibiotics don’t tend to work on viruses, so doctors often recommend home care,” Armin says.
She warns against using cough suppressants for children, and instead recommends helping them hydrate and rest, and not sending them back to school or daycare too soon.
Parents can also prepare for mild RSV treatment at home, he says Anita PatelMD, a pediatric critical care physician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.
She suggests that caregivers stock acetaminophen and ibuprofen (for babies older than 6 months) for pain and fever. They should also have a nasal aspirator bulb with saline drops, a reliable thermometer, and a humidifier, as well as the phone numbers of the pediatrician, the opening hour line, and nearby urgent care centers.
Practice prevention methods
The COVID-19 pandemic has made most of us experts in disease prevention, so put these skills to work to prevent children from contracting RSV or other illnesses during this surge.
Although no RSV vaccine has been approved in this country yet, doctors recommend keeping up with other vaccines, including influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, to prevent the spread and severity of these viruses. Encourage your children to wash their hands frequently, cover their mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing, and hide masks in public.
“Masks work very well against influenza and RSV,” says Patel. “A simple surgical mask has saved me from picking up both while caring for thousands of children.”