15:07 PM

What to Know About Respiratory Illness Season While We Celebrate the Holidays

By Dr. Steven Griffin, Pediatrician, Holy Rosary Healthcare 

'Tis the Season for holidays, family gatherings and great meals. Unfortunately, it is also the season for respiratory illnesses. With the recent news about a more severe respiratory illness season this year, many families have asked questions, especially about the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV can infect young children's lower airways and lungs and sometimes cause them to be hospitalized. While we cannot predict who will become sick enough to be hospitalized, children under two years old, immunocompromised children, asthmatics, and children born prematurely requiring a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay, are at the highest risk.    

RSV is a seasonal virus that generally impacts the United States during winter. Most kids are exposed to and get it at least once in their lifetime. Many young children have not been exposed to as many viruses as they typically would have been as infants and toddlers due to COVID health and safety protocols in recent years. With COVID, influenza and RSV present in our communities this year, children may get quite sick during the respiratory season, which usually lasts from October-April.   

RSV can cause a respiratory syndrome called bronchiolitis, where a child (generally under two years old) has excess mucus in their airways, causing them to collapse and be unable to take full breaths. Symptoms can show up as retractions (the pulling in below or between the ribs when breathing), low oxygen saturations, or poor feeding in infants that need to breathe through their nose when feeding. Older children may also get RSV but may not be as sick as younger kids. There is no direct treatment or vaccine for RSV. If a child is hospitalized with RSV bronchiolitis, we keep them hydrated and support their breathing as their body fights off the infection.  

The best way to protect against RSV is to avoid getting it and by being a good neighbor. If your child is sick, keep them at home; don't send them to school or daycare. If you were planning a big gathering and your child becomes ill, it would be best to change your plans, especially if there will be young children or elderly family and friends present at the event. Practicing the good handwashing and hygiene habits we learned during the height of the COVID pandemic is also essential.   

Most importantly, if your child is having trouble breathing, please take them to the nearest emergency department. If your child is sick, we are always happy to see them at the Holy Rosary Healthcare pediatric clinic or the emergency department if symptoms are severe.  

I wish you a happy, healthy and safe holiday.