Unprecedented surge in RSV cases cause Chicago area children's hospitals to run out of beds

Flu cases also expected to rise

ByKaren Jordan and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
RSV cases cause Chicago area pediatric hospitals to run out of beds
EMBED <>More Videos

For weeks, Chicago hospitals have been full with pediatric patients fighting RSV, the flu and other illnesses.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The unprecedented surge of RSV cases has caused children's hospitals across the country to run out of beds.

"It is hitting us pretty severe. Especially for being this early in the season," Dr. Michael Bauer of Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital.

Bauer, medical director at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, said while they have worked to accommodate the increased need for pediatric beds, they are frequently at maximum capacity.

"Unfortunately, we have times where we need to transfer our young patients for higher levels of care like a pediatric intensive care unit," Bauer said.

SEE ALSO | Flu season hitting hard as RSV, other respiratory illnesses strain hospitals and antibiotic supply

Bauer said there were five instances last week where Lake Forest worked with children's hospitals across the region to place children in their care.

"When you're starting to tell them we're transferring you up to a pediatric hospital in Wisconsin or Iowa or Indiana, that's a tough thing and can be a strain on the family," Bauer said.

Doctors said most cases of RSV can be treated at home, but be on the lookout for severe symptoms.

"If you ever notice your child working real hard to breathe, if you see any blue need to skin, or if they're not wanting to eat or drink and are fatigued, I would take them to emergency department," Dr. Michael Cappello said.

Dr. Colleen Nash, a pediatrician with Rush University Medical Center, also joined ABC7 Eyewitness News to discuss the high numbers of RSV and flu cases they're seeing.

WATCH: Flu, RSV keeping Chicago pediatric hospitals busy

Dr. Colleen Nash, a pediatrician with Rush University Medical Center, joined ABC7 Eyewitness News to discuss the high numbers of RSV and flu cases they're seeing.

Dr. Nash said they are seeing an influx of pediatric patients far greater than in years past driven by respiratory issues.

Chicago area pediatric units are in constant communication with each other to accommodate all of the patients coming in, though they are expecting another surge in patients as families gather for the holidays.

"We do expect there to be an increase in flu cases certainly," Dr. Nash said. "We continue to see RSV cases and then COVID is also a consideration."

SEE ALSO | Chicago area rises back up to 'medium' COVID risk level as health officials push boosters

Doctors say the majority of pediatric respiratory illnesses can be treated at home with fluids and over-the-counter fever reducers. Dr. Nash reminded parents of children who are showing symptoms to keep them home and encouraged masking if they must be around others.

Dr. Nash also shared specific symptoms that indicate you should take your child to the ER. Here's what to look for:

-Labored breathing: You can see your child's neck muscles, belly or ribs moving when they breathe.

-Faster breathing: You notice your child breathing much faster than normal

-Nasal flaring: This is a sign that a child - especially a baby - is having trouble breathing

Doctors are hopeful RSV cases are beginning to plateau, but they are worried rising flu and COVID-19 cases will continue to stretch hospitals to the limit. They urge everyone to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines.