Avera Medical Minute AMcK: RSV common in infants and toddlers; signs and symptoms parents should watch for

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It’s that time of the year when more and more little ones are coming down with viruses, specifically RSV. Each year, around 57,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized because of the virus.

“Jude is go with the flow, happy-go-lucky, that type of kid,” said Alicia Schumacher, Jude’s mother.

But just a few weeks ago, eight-month-old Jude wasn’t acting like himself and was wheezing.

“It is really scary, especially when they’re so little and you see them struggling. You’re just wondering what to do and whether to bring them in or not,” said Schumacher.

Jude was diagnosed with RSV, a common respiratory virus in infants and toddlers. A few days later, Schumacher says Jude’s wheezing got worse and he started to act more lethargic.

“The doctor really suggested that we go to the ER because he was concerned about his oxygen and him breathing too quickly,” said Schumacher.

“January, February are usually our bad RSV months,” said Dr. Sam Schimelpfenig, pediatrician.

Dr. Schimelpfenig says dehydration and low oxygen levels are usually what lands little ones with RSV in the hospital.

“The signs of that would be lots of coughing, lots of labored breathing and mom’s trying to nurse or give a bottle and they would put it in their mouth because they’re hungry and it comes out right away because they can’t breathe and eat at the same time,” said Dr. Schimelpfenig.

When it comes to treating RSV, it’s all symptomatic care.

“But if there’s wheezing or respiratory symptoms, kids in the hospital or sometimes in clinic, we may try some nebs. Not all kids will need them but some kids will benefit -- Tylenol, Motrin just to keep fevers down to keep them more comfortable. Make sure they keep plenty of fluids and to stay hydrated and let time take care of the rest of it,” said Dr. Schimelpfenig.

“Jude was in the hospital for just a day. So we felt really lucky that he didn’t have to be in the hospital for a week and really there, they just got him back to where he needed to be,” said Schumacher.

The tough part about RSV is that it’s very contagious.

“It’s usually from runny nose and congestion, and they touch their runny nose, and they touch everything and the next kid comes along and reverses the process,” said Dr. Schimelpfenig.

Dr. Schimelpfenig says don’t wait until morning to take your child in to be seen.

“It’s always better to check them out and reassure a family ‘hey were in good shape, keep doing what you’re doing’ or ‘maybe try doing this instead.’ But if they’re really sick, that’s where they need to be if they need to be admitted.

“I think all parents kind of go back and forth and you say to yourself should I go in, shouldn’t I go in? Are they going to tell me it’s viral, that type of thing. But you are your child’s best advocate and you know your child better than anybody -- so if you’re feeling like they’re lethargic, not acting themselves, that type of thing – just go in even if it’s for your own peace of mind. That’s why we’re so happy we did because he ended up hospitalized,” said Schumacher.

To help stop the spread of RSV, kids should cover their cough, wash their hands often and avoid touching their face.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.