With COVID-19 still present and an already “early, widespread, and active flu season” underway, according to DeKalb County Board of Health officials, a different illness is causing increased hospitalization among children this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surveillance has shown an increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) detections and RSV-associated emergency department visits and hospitalizations in multiple U.S. regions, with some regions nearing seasonal peak levels.

“While RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and most people recover in a week or two, RSV can be serious, especially for infants, children and older adults,” states the CDC website. “RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.”

Officials with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), which has an emergency facility in Brookhaven, said they are experiencing “high volumes, which [have] led to increased wait times at emergency departments and urgent care locations.”

Earlier in November, CHOA updated its visitor policy to allow only one parent or caregiver with patients to avoid overcrowding.

“First and foremost, it’s important to note that there is no known cure or treatment for RSV right now, so it’s important to help children manage their symptoms at home to keep them comfortable,” said Dr. Steven Goudy, director of pediatric otolaryngology and vice chairman of research at Emory/CHOA.

Goudy’s tips for RSV relief at home include:

Fever control

“RSV can last about 10 days, with the peak day being on day five, giving anyone who has it plenty of time to feel uncomfortable,” said Goudy. “If a fever spikes, the Mayo Clinic recommends normal fever control, which consists of taking acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or aspirin.”

Respiratory hygiene

“Practicing good respiratory hygiene is really about keeping the virus contained and decreasing the spread,” said Goudy. “RSV is spread by droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. RSV can also spread through dried respiratory secretions on bedclothes and similar items and can also stay on hard surfaces for several hours. Good respiratory hygiene consists of covering your nose whenever you sneeze or cough, making sure your dirty tissues are thrown away, and use hand sanitizer often.”

Nasal suctioning

According to Goudy, one of the top reasons children and babies are hospitalized with RSV is for basic nasal suctioning. Using a nasal suctioning instrument can help an infant breathe more clearly.


“Preventing dehydration will help with recovering faster,” said Goudy. “Getting in extra fluids is a great way to treat RSV at home.”

Use a humidifier

“Moisture is key whenever searching for RSV relief at home,” said Goudy. “Creating moist air will help children breathe better and decrease the amount of congestion and coughing they are suffering with. Just a reminder though, make sure to keep that humidifier clear in order to prevent any buildup of mold and bacteria.”

According to the CDC website, to prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper shirt sleeve, not hands
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils if feeling ill
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices

“Ideally, people with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children at high risk for severe RSV disease, including premature infants, children younger than 2 years of age with chronic lung or heart conditions, children with weakened immune systems, or children with neuromuscular disorders,” said CDC officials.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html.

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