When Is a Cold More Than Just a Cold?
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When is a Cold More Than Just a Cold?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) causing havoc this fall
From the Advocacy Network on Disabilities (www.advocacynetwork.org)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is one of the many viruses that cause respiratory illness of the nose, throat, and lungs. This virus is most common in the late fall through early spring months, but can vary in different parts of the country. 

Almost all children get RSV at least once before they are 2 years old. For most healthy children, RSV is like a cold. But, some children get very sick with RSV.

With mask-wearing and physical distancing for COVID-19, there were fewer cases of RSV in 2020. However, once safety measures relaxed with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, a rise in RSV cases began in spring 2021. The spread of RSV and other seasonal respiratory illnesses like influenza (flu) has also started earlier than usual this year.

According to an article in The Atlantic, RSV is largely responsible for emergency departments and intensive-care units being at or past capacity this year in what they are calling one of the worst pediatric-care crisis in decades.

So when should you call the doctor? If your child has a disability, contact the doctor. Research shows children with disabilities have higher risk for complications from respiratory illness. RSV symptoms are typically at their worst on days 3 through 5 of illness. Fortunately, almost all children recover from an RSV infection on their own.

Call your pediatrician right away if your child has any:

  • Symptoms of bronchiolitis 
  • Symptoms of dehydration (fewer than 1 wet diaper every 8 hours)
  • Pauses or difficulty breathing
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips or skin
  • Significantly decreased activity and alertness

Some children with RSV may be at increased risk of developing a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection. Call your doctor if your child has:

  • Symptoms that worsen or do not start to improve after 7 days
  • A fever (with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher) and they are younger than 3 months of age (12 weeks).
  • A fever that rises above 104°F repeatedly for a child of any age.
  • Poor sleep or fussiness, chest pain, ear tugging or ear drainage

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