(WXYZ) — Health experts are predicting a tough winter ahead for kids - as respiratory illnesses are already straining pediatric hospitals across the country.
RSV – which stands for respiratory syncytial virus – is so common that most kids get infected with it by the time they turn two years old. Of course, the pandemic threw us a huge curveball. And more kids are getting infected now because respiratory illnesses were down the last couple years due to pandemic precautions like wearing masks.
Now the symptoms parents should be on the lookout for are similar to the common cold. For example, coughing, runny nose, low-grade fever, headache, wheezing, and a decreased appetite. For most kids, these symptoms can be managed at home. Treatment involves plenty of fluids, so they don’t become dehydrated. And fever can be managed with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
However, there are kids that can develop more serious infections, especially young infants and children with weakened immune systems. They may have trouble breathing or develop bronchiolitis or pneumonia – both of which can lead to respiratory failure.
Right now, there’s no specific treatment for RSV. However, if the infection is severe, Intravenous fluids may be given. And additional oxygen or intubation with mechanical ventilation may be necessary to help with breathing.
Prevention is the usual when it comes to respiratory viruses. So wash your hands often with soap and water, clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces, don’t share objects, and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
As for the monoclonal antibody, it’s called Palivizumab. It’s a monthly shot to help protect high-risk infants and young children during the RSV season. If interested, parents should talk to their pediatrician to see if their child qualifies.
I also want to mention that there’s a new monoclonal antibody on the horizon. It’s called nirsevimab. It’s currently in clinical trials with over 3,000 infants. The efficacy rate is between 76 and 79% against medically attended illness, hospitalization, and very severe RSV. The American Academy of Pediatrics will analyze more data in February 2023 and could potentially vote on nirsevimab in June 2023.
In the meantime, while RSV cases surge, parents should remind their children of the prevention steps I mentioned. And if anyone is sick, please stay home to prevent these respiratory infections from spreading in our communities.