DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — It might be tempting to blame the sudden change in weather for your sniffles and sneezes, but local doctors say they were fighting a trifecta of viruses before the cold front arrived: COVID-19, flu and RSV.
"I think it's important for people to realize that things are really bad out there right now," says Jeffrey Kahn, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Dallas' Children's Health. And the professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern is not talking about the weather. "Lines are long at emergency rooms... unfortunately, I think we are in for many more weeks of it."
Dominick Ford just turned three months old, but he's already had a brush with RSV.
"It was pretty scary," admits his mother Melanie Ford who shared that it all started "with a sneeze", but then the symptoms worsened until her baby boy struggled to breathe. Now, with the holidays approaching, she and her husband are taking no chances.
"Everybody that's around us knows all of the protocols that we're taking, so they're also being very cautious... but if we are going to have more than three or four friends over, we'll just have him over at a babysitter's house to be safe."
With so many viruses circulating, doctors say parents should stay aware of the symptoms and the warning signs.
According to Dr. Kahn, flu can sicken anyone and the symptoms, like fever and body aches, strike suddenly. Last year, Children's Health treated two patients for the flu. This year, they've already seen more than 400.
RSV sickens very young children, infants and toddlers. The respiratory symptoms progress slowly, worsening over a couple of days. Doctors are urging parents to be concerned if your child has trouble breathing or stops drinking.
If babies "haven't had a wet diaper, seek medical attention" says Dr. Kahn.
There is no vaccine for RSV, so doctors stress that families with infants should take common sense precautions.
"Don't bring them out in public, particularly now with all these viruses circulating. Keep them away from sick individuals. If you're having a family gathering, you may want to ask people – we have Thanksgiving coming up – is there anybody ill? Good handwashing and to really try to keep them protected from being exposed to RSV and these other respiratory viruses, because for RSV, that's all we got."
Along with taking precautions, there's also prevention. Doctors are again urging North Texans to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, which lessen the severity of the illness or even prevent it outright for those exposed.
"I keep emphasizing vaccines because that's what going to break the cycle here," says Dr. Kahn, "it's certainly going to reduce the numbers that we are seeing in all of the emergency rooms throughout the area."