COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s not even autumn, but a virus typical of winter is already here — and it can mean a hospital visit, particularly for infants with small airways.
In July, over 100 children were admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) — not flu or COVID-19. In summer, the hospital doctors typically see only a couple of cases of RSV.
Dr. Rustin Morse, Chief Medical Officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said across the U.S., there’s been an uptick in respiratory viruses typical of winter.
“[RSV] mostly affects very young children under the age of one or two, down to six months,” Morse said. “They have smaller airways, have smaller noses. It doesn’t take much mucus to block their breathing, and they have more difficulty breathing when they get this virus.”
According to Morse, a baby needs extra medical care and should visit a doctor or the emergency room when there is:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty taking a bottle
- High fever
Morse said the vast majority of children who end up with RSV don’t require any extra care from a hospital, but may need extra hydration and a bulb suction to take out the mucus in their nose.
“A few children will require additional support in the hospital, including potentially IV fluids, and more frequent suctioning of the nose,” he said. “Occasionally some of these children require respiratory support where we have to put a tube in their mouth and breath for them for a period of time.”
Parents have learned a lot about viruses in the last 18 months, and RSV responds to the same precautions:
- Keep children’s hands washed.
- Keep their hands away from the mouth or nose.
- Avoid other people who are ill
- Wear a mask because, like COVID-19, RSV travels through droplets breathed, coughed, or sneezed into a room. You are protected from both viruses by wearing a mask.
- Get vaccinated, if you’re eligible, against COVID-19.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital tests all children who come in for COVID-19, even if it’s for a broken leg and nothing to do with coronavirus.
“I think the story nationally is very different,” Morse said. “We are seeing some of our other children’s hospitals across the nation having dramatic increases in the volume of COVID patients, more specifically in the south and southeast.”
“So it’s something that we need to keep an eye on here in Central Ohio, but right now, we’re not seeing it as a significant increase in pediatric cases,” he added.
Parents don’t know whether it’s RSV or COVID-19 when a child has a fever, cough, runny nose, or congestion, so they have to get tested for coronavirus.
“The reality is that COVID-19 in the vast majority of children turns out to be a relatively minor illness, so that’s the good news,” Morse said.