RSV in babies, toddlers filling up pediatric hospital beds in Chicago unusually early, doctors warn

RSV is the most common reason for kids under 2 to be hospitalized, doctors say

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Thursday, October 13, 2022
RSV cases filling up pediatric hospital beds in Chicago, doctors warn
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What is RSV? Symptoms affecting babies and toddlers are similar to the common cold, but trouble breathing and high fevers can bring kids to the ER.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Alissa Werner has been spending the last couple days at Rush University Medical Center with her youngest child.

Three-year-old Ryiah is in the intensive care unit being treated for respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV.

"We knew it was viral, so antibiotics were not going to help," Alissa Werner said. "So just supportive care, get her on oxygen and keep her comfortable."

Ryiah is one of many kids diagnosed with RSV filling up pediatric hospital beds in Chicago. Doctors say the virus is the most common reason for kids under 2 to be hospitalized

"We are very busy with RSV," said Dr. Laura Meltzer, a pediatric hospitalist at Rush University Medical Center. "It's an unusually early time in the season to see so many children sick."

RSV is most common in the winter months, but usual patterns have been thrown off by COVID. Hospitals are also seeing slightly older kids, rather than just babies.

"The kids that would have been affected early in life, now might not have been affected until a few years older because they were wearing a mask or not going to daycare when they were young," explained Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children's Hospital.

RSV symptoms are similar to the common cold. The majority of kids recover at home, but trouble breathing and high fevers are what brings children to the hospital. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for RSV.

"It's so frustrating knowing there isn't any treatment that we can give to make it get better," Meltzer said, "but that support is critical: a mix of both hydration, respiratory support, suctioning and medication to control fevers."

But, most kids do get better, and Ryiah Werner is on the mend.

"Her fever is gone, we think we are past the worst of it, weaning her off oxygen and getting back to normal self," her mom said.

While there is not a cure for RSV, vaccines are being tested in clinical trials, but that is still a long way off.