November 12, 2022 – Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has caused a rise in pediatric emergency room visits. According to Loma Linda University Department of Health Sciences, emergency rooms throughout California have seen a surge in pediatric cases, beginning in October. Such a surge normally does not begin until winter. Connecticut Children’s Hospital has reported a surge beginning in late summer, and Yale New Haven Hospital reported that their cases doubled recently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported rises in RSV pediatric emergency room visits in multiple areas of the country, reaching peak seasonal levels by the end of October.
In healthy adults RSV causes the common cold, which seldom causes serious problems. In children under the age of 2 the immune system is not functioning at full capacity yet, making little patients susceptible to pneumonia and bronchiolitis. RSV is especially dangerous for premature infants, infants with congenital heart or lung problems, those with immune deficiency, and infants with neuromuscular conditions, who may have difficulty clearing mucus secretions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC advise adults to wash their hands for 20 seconds before holding a baby, and to keep the baby away from smokers or individuals with respiratory infections. Keep the baby away from crowded places such as shopping malls, especially during the holidays. It is okay to breastfeed your child if you have a cold, because the infant needs nourishment and the antibodies in breast milk.
Not every baby with a cold needs to be seen in the emergency department, but watch for more serious signs. If the infant has difficulty breathing, excessive mucus production in the nose, stops breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time, or has blue nose, lips, or hands and feet, it’s time for a trip to the emergency room.
There is no immunization available for RSV as of yet, although scientists are hard at work to develop one. Infants with risk factors can be given an antiviral medication called palivizumab. This is only given to infants at high risk, and ordinary precautions are adequate in most cases.