HealthONE - November 14, 2022

A rising number of babies and young children are being hospitalized with serious cases of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), flu, and other viruses.

In fact, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently held a news conference and reported that there have been 525 children hospitalized due to RSV.

What is happening right now?

RSV, a contagious virus that is usually mild but can severely affect the lungs and respiratory airways, and the seasonal flu tend to spread widely in late fall and the winter, but we are seeing earlier and more severe cases of both this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that flu hospitalizations for all ages are at their highest level since 2009.

  • The number of babies and young children hospitalized with RSV has risen sharply since the summer.
  • 30 percent of patients hospitalized with the flu this fall are kids (one-third of them under age 5), according to the CDC.

The waning COVID-19 pandemic might be one reason why. Fewer people are wearing face masks and social distancing, which had helped reduce the spread of COVID and other respiratory viruses.

Now kids are more vulnerable to illnesses they haven't been exposed to in a while. Some doctors report treating kids with two or three viruses at the same time!

RSV and flu

These viruses can cause serious, even life-threatening, illnesses in some babies and young children.

RSV is very common in babies and young children. Symptoms are similar to a cold and may include cough, congestion, runny nose, fever, sneezing, fussiness, and poor feeding.

But some babies and young children develop bronchiolitis (an infection causing the lung’s small breathing tubes to swell) or pneumonia. Both can make it much harder to breathe and may require hospitalization.

Flu season typically runs from October to May and afflicts hundreds of thousands of people. Thousands of children are hospitalized each year with flu complications, including pneumonia.

Flu symptoms may include chills, body aches, fever, cough, congestion or runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.

When to call your child’s doctor

It’s wise to contact your healthcare provider if you suspect your child has RSV, flu, COVID-19, or another respiratory virus. Your child may need to be seen, tested, or treated with medication.

In a medical emergency (a seizure or extreme difficulty breathing), always call 911. Otherwise, call the healthcare provider right away if your sick child develops any of these symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Flaring nostrils, bobbing the head, or grunting rhythmically while breathing
  • Belly breathing — tugging in the body between the ribs and lower neck while breathing
  • Fever above 104˚ F (or any fever in babies less than 12 weeks old)
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain (cannot walk a few steps without pain)
  • Dehydration (no tears when crying, not peeing for 8 hours)
  • Not alert or interacting with you when awake
  • Seizures
  • Fever or cough that had improved but returned or worsened
  • Worsening symptoms from chronic medical conditions, such as asthma

Protecting your family

Vaccines for the flu and COVID-19 are safe, effective protection against these viruses. Researchers are working on an RSV vaccine. Be sure that you (and anyone who cares for your child) are up to date on vaccines, and talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about vaccinating your child.

As always:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Cover sneezes and coughs
  • Wear a mask when symptomatic
  • Stay home when sick

Sky Ridge Medical Center is here for you

Since its opening in 2003, Sky Ridge has grown to become a 284-bed destination hospital with a reputation for clinical excellence and world-class service. Sky Ridge offers compassionate care through patient-centered programs.

Learn about pediatric care at Sky Ridge Medical Center or call (720) 225-KIDZ (5439) for more information.