respiratory syncytial virus
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
June 12, 2024 ·  3 min read

Virus that usually spreads in winter is sending babies to the hospital in summer

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory for a respiratory disease spreading among babies. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) normally is a bigger issue in the winter months, but doctors are seeing more hospitalizations for it this summer than ever before. Here’s why. (1)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Spreading Among Babies This Summer

Doctors usually see a spike in Respiratory Syncytial Virus in babies during the winter months. This year, however, they are seeing a wave of hospitalizations in the hot, summer months. Doctors speculate it is because children were isolated from each other throughout the winter due to the pandemic, and with restrictions lifting in the United States, RSV is making up for the lost time.

“The volume of cases that we’re seeing right now is what we expect to see in December, January,” said pediatric infectious diseases physician Dr. Claudette Poole. “My speculation is that because we suppressed its normal circulation time during the winter, it’s sort of making up for lost time now.”

What Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus

RSV is a common respiratory virus that for most healthy people only causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Usually, it takes these people around one or two weeks to fully recover. For babies and older adults, as well as those with compromised immune systems, it can be deadly. (2)

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age in the United States. The former is an inflammation of the small airways of the lungs (where oxygen transfer occurs) and the latter is a dangerous lung infection. Symptoms include (3):

  • Congested or runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing headache

In severe cases, the signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Bluish color of the skin (due to lack of oxygen)

In infants, parents may also see poor feeding, irritability, and unusual tiredness or lethargy.

How Is RSV Spread

RSV is quite contagious. It spreads in a similar fashion as COVID – through droplets in the air. The difference, however, is that RSV can stick to surfaces such as counters, tables, doorknobs, and even clothing, toys, and hands. It can spread particularly quickly among children in daycare-like settings. (4)

What To Do If Your Child Contracts RSV

Most cases of RSV don’t require hospitalization and can be taken care of normally at home as a regular cold virus. Doctors are recommending that you have your child tested for coronavirus to be sure, as the symptoms are similar. You should also keep your child at home and away from other children. Keep surfaces clean and hands washed. (5)

“Make sure they’re not breathing too fast, make sure they’re not distressed,” says pediatrician Dr. Diana Peterson. “Keep them comfortable with a fever reducer and keep them hydrated.”

Most symptoms can be taken care of with over-the-counter cold, flu, and pain medications. Monitor your child’s symptoms and if they seem to be getting worse, visit your doctor or take them to the emergency room, if necessary. It is also important that you inform your child’s daycare, child care provider, or any other groups that they are in so those parents can be aware and also monitor their own children.

Keep Reading: We’re warning other parents because no one warned us

Sources

  1. RSV is spreading in summer, CDC warns, worrying parents and doctors.” NBC News. Tonya Bauer. July 9, 2021
  2. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV).” CDC
  3. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).” Mayo Clinic
  4. Respiratory Syncytial Virus.” Kids Health
  5. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections.” MedLine Plus