At the hospital I work at, as well as hospitals across the country, beds continue to fill up with babies and children experiencing severe symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Traci Gonzales, APRN, PNP-C
Nurse Practitioner, Texas Children’s Hospital Houston, National Volunteer Medical Spokesperson, American Lung Association
This fall, for the first time in several years, we are seeing a dramatic spike in RSV cases. While we are seeing more cases right now, RSV is a very common illness and the leading cause of hospitalization in infants. Each year, around 58,000 children ages five and younger are hospitalized due to RSV. About three-fourths of those hospitalizations occur in infants under 12 months.
RSV is spread from person to person through close contact with someone who is infected. This can happen via coughing and sneezing or touching objects such as toys that have the virus on them.
Symptoms of RSV include:
- Mild respiratory symptoms, including congestion, runny nose, fever, cough, and sore throat.
- Very young infants may be irritable, fatigued, and have feeding difficulties.
- A barking or wheezing cough.
- Infants with severe RSV will have short, shallow, and rapid breathing. This can be identified by caving-in of the chest between the ribs and under the ribs, spreading-out of the nostrils with every breath (nasal flaring), and abnormally fast breathing. In addition, their mouth, lips, and fingernails may turn a bluish color due to lack of oxygen.
When to call your healthcare provider
You should call your healthcare provider if your infant has poor appetite or a decrease in activity level, respiratory symptoms that become severe, or a shallow cough that continues throughout the day and night. Also, seek care if there are any new or lingering symptoms that concern you. Seek emergency care if your child is having trouble breathing.
There are simple steps to help prevent the spread of illness. Make sure to wash your hands often, keep your child home if they are sick, and avoid sharing cups, bottles, or toys that are contaminated. Also, this winter, make sure that you and your family are up to date on all of your recommended vaccinations to help protect you against infectious respiratory illnesses, including the flu and COVID-19.