Reduce your child’s risk of RSV, flu this Thanksgiving
Hospitals across the country are seeing a surge in pediatric visits for respiratory causes, including influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and are urging community members to take caution ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance has shown an increase in RSV detections and RSV-associated emergency department visits and hospitalizations in multiple U.S. regions, with some regions nearing seasonal peak levels.
Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association asked federal officials to declare a public health emergency in response to RSV and flu hospitalization levels that are higher than the same periods in previous seasons over the past decade. The early increases in RSV and influenza viruses highlight the importance of prevention and treatment measures, including vaccination and antiviral treatment.
“We all look forward to gathering with family and friends over the holidays, but it’s important to gather in ways that keep ourselves and others healthy. We’re reminding patients and families to stay home when sick, practice good hand hygiene and cover coughs/sneezes to reduce the spread of contagious viruses including influenza, COVID-19 and RSV,” said Dr. Reginald Washington, pediatric chief medical officer at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, Colorado. “We are also encouraging people who are not in an emergency situation to seek care at our urgent care locations or to contact their primary care physician.”
Below, learn more about the signs and symptoms of these serious respiratory illnesses, as well as prevention tips and when you should seek emergency medical care.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV symptoms may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Runny nose
In infants less than 6 months old, symptoms may include irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite and breathing issues. While RSV typically clears up on its own after a week or two, immediately head to the emergency room if your baby exhibits any of the following symptoms:
- Dehydration (decrease in wet diapers)
- Difficult, labored, shallow or rapid breathing
- High fever
- Skin turning blue (especially lips and fingernails)
If you are unsure as to whether your baby has RSV, always err on the side of caution and seek medical care. To help relieve mild symptoms, you can give your baby over-the-counter pain and fever medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, since some medications are not recommended for children, talk to your pediatrician before using any nonprescription cold medicines.
Children younger than 6 months old have the highest risk of being hospitalized from flu compared to children of other ages but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, protecting them from the flu is especially important.
Observe the child or children in your care closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness. If your child develops a fever (or feels feverish with chills), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue or vomiting and/or diarrhea, contact your child’s healthcare provider. If your child shows any emergency warning signs of flu, seek medical care immediately.
Preventing respiratory illness in children
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all eligible infants, children and adults age 6 months and older get COVID vaccines. People are considered up to date if they have received all recommended doses and boosters for their age.
As a caregiver to a young child, you should also get a flu vaccine and make sure that other caregivers and household members aged 6 months and older get vaccinated each year. By getting vaccinated, you will be less likely to get the flu and, therefore, less likely to spread the flu.
Like a cold, RSV, COVID-19 and flu spread through coughs and sneezes. You are susceptible to spread when you touch an infected surface or come in close contact with an infected person, such as kissing a child’s face. You can reduce the transmission of these viruses by:
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- Covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Staying home when sick
- Washing your hands often
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