A few respiratory viruses are spreading rapidly in the U.S. as temperatures drop. Children are being admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms. Doctors are encouraging parents to recognize these signs and to seek treatment immediately.
RSV (or respiratory syncytial virus) is increasing in pediatric cases. While covid cases in children are decreasing, coronavirus is still circulating at high levels.
According to Dr. Paul Offit (a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Philadelphia and a vaccine expert), most children will recover from flu-like symptoms such as RSV, Covid, or RSV. Some, such as very young children or those with underlying lung problems, may require additional care.
These are the symptoms you should be looking out for in case your child has a virus in the respiratory system.
Is my child suffering from RSV, Covid, or flu?
Each virus usually begins in the upper respiratory tract. It can be difficult, if not impossible, for parents to identify which one is causing their infection early, according to
Dr. Kristin Mofitt is an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. A test is the best way for doctors to identify which virus is causing infection.
Many children can experience similar symptoms to RSV, Covid, and flu early on.
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
Moffitt suggested that a sore throat could be an indication of Covid. Doctors have observed that sore throats are often the first sign of omicron subvariant infections.
Parents can conduct at-home Covid testing to determine if their child is suffering from Covid. However, negative rapid test results don’t necessarily mean that a person is healthy.
Moffitt explained that children can be tested at their doctor’s offices for RSV and flu. This is called a multiplex test.
She also said that it is possible for a child with multiple viruses to infect him or her at once, referred to as a coinfection.
What makes respiratory viruses so dangerous for very young children and teens?
It all boils down to anatomy. Babies and toddlers have smaller airways than adolescents and older children. This means that if they become sick with respiratory viruses, their lungs can quickly fill up with mucus. This can lead to breathing problems. Dr. Deanna Bhrens is a pediatric critical care physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital, Chicago.
Dr. Nusheen Amieenuddin, a pediatrician at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic, stated that children with chronic health problems such as heart disease or chronic lung disease could also be more susceptible to severe respiratory virus illness.
Moffitt stated that parents should consult their pediatricians if they aren’t sure if their children require more assistance in recovering from infection.
She said that pediatricians’ offices are “very responsive right now trying to alleviate the squeeze which urgent care and pediatric emergency departments settings are feeling.” They frequently “open sick slots and other things to be able to assess children who aren’t improving or whose parents are worried but don’t meet the criteria for an evaluation at the emergency department.”
What is the best time for a child to go to the emergency department?
Behrens stated that children who refuse to eat or have difficulty urinating should be taken to the emergency department immediately.
This is particularly important for toddlers and infants who are unable to tell their parents what is wrong.
Behrens stated that abnormal breathing can manifest as rapid breathing, wheezing, or a struggle to draw in air.
According to Ameenuddin of the Mayo Clinic, breathing problems can also manifest in the form of blue lips or pulling inwards between the ribs on every breath.
If not treated, severe cases can become pneumonia from RSV, Covid, or flu.
Hotez stated that RSV is also known for causing bronchiolitis. This is an inflammation of small airways in your lungs. These conditions can lead to death, particularly in children who have underlying medical conditions.
Is there any treatment for RSV
Moffitt stated that a child with Covid might be prescribed steroids or the antiviral drug Remdesivir. A few antivirals may also be prescribed for flu symptoms, such as Tamiflu.
RSV is not a treatable disease. Therefore, children who are infected and have to be admitted to the hospital for treatment will usually receive supportive care. This can include oxygen.
Hotez stated that there is no RSV vaccine. One vaccine is in development by Pfizer.
Monoclonal antibody injections may also be available for children with serious health problems.
Hotez also advised parents to have their children vaccinated against the flu and Covid.
He said that there are three viruses currently in circulation. If you can eliminate one or two of them by getting your child immunized, it makes things easier.
Ameenuddin suggested that parents can help their children, who may not be able to get vaccinated yet, by creating a “cocoon”, where everyone is vaccinated around them. This will reduce the risk of severe diseases and transmission.