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RSV vs. COVID vs. the flu: Here’s what you need to know

(NEXSTAR) — Hospitals across the country are reporting a rise in the number of children being hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. Among a The flu season is expected to be severe and with COVID-19 still infecting thousands each week, some are warning that we could be entering a challenging few months.

“We’ve already seen above what we expect in October of any year in terms of RSV locally and across the country,” said Diego Hiano, an infectious disease specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A hill. According to the data, over the past week, almost 7,000 RSV tests have given positive results numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far more than the roughly 30 reported at the same time last year.

Dr. Julie Holland, vice president of pediatric primary care Chicago Children’s Health Alliance tells Nexstar’s WGN There are concerns that patients may be infected with all three viruses at the same time.

So, how do you tell these viruses apart?

First, it is important to note the most serious symptom: difficulty breathing. If your child is having trouble breathing, for whatever reason, get medical help right away. Signs of this may include being able to see your baby’s ribs when breathing, their lips turning pale or blue, or the area under your baby’s Adam’s apple collapsing.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can contract these viruses, but infants are among the most vulnerable, as are the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

In the case of RSV, the smaller airways of young children make them more susceptible.

“Their airways are smaller, so the inflammation and excess mucus makes it difficult to breathe,” Dr. Joe Childs of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital explained to Nexstar’s. WATER. “Especially in the first months of life, it can be very frustrating.”

Their young immune systems can also make them more vulnerable to the flu. Holland says that when it comes to the flu and RSV, “the younger you are, the worse you get.”

While young children can contract COVID, many who are infected have no symptoms Harvard Medical School. If they do have symptoms, they tend to be milder. Children, however, are at risk for a serious complication known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, after exposure to or infection with the virus that causes COVID. MIS-C may cause problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal tract, according to Center for Disease Control.

What are the symptoms?

All three viruses have similar symptoms in young children, Michael Meyer, medical director of the Wisconsin Children’s Intensive Care Unit, wrote Monday. blog post.

“These include stuffy nose or runny nose, cough, headache, and low-grade fever,” Meyer writes. “Their appetites may also be lower, and for infants, this may mean fewer wet nappies.”

These symptoms are similar to those listed for COVID CDC and the flu Johns Hopkins Medicine. The flu does include additional symptoms such as high fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In young children, RSV, an upper respiratory infection, can also cause wheezing and respiratory distress, Holland said. But she added that you can’t tell what kind of virus someone has just by looking at their symptoms. Instead, you will need a diagnosis from a medical professional.

How are viruses diagnosed?

Diagnosis of COVID requires analysis of a nasal swab by PCR or an antigen test. Testing for RSV, although not usually required under the American Lung Association, usually done with a mouth swab or blood test. If your doctor suspects that your child has the flu, testing may include taking swabs from the nose or throat.

How to protect your child

Although viruses can be difficult to distinguish, protecting your child is the same for everyone.

Meyer recommends washing your hands often and making sure everyone who comes in contact with your child washes their hands. If your child or anyone else in your home is unwell, they should stay home. Those who are not feeling well should also not visit your home. He also recommends keeping surfaces clean, as viruses can live on hard surfaces.

There is no vaccine for RSV, but there are vaccines for COVID and the flu.

The flu vaccine is recommended for most children 6 months of age and older John Hopkins.

Two Vaccines against the coronavirus infection covid — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — approved for children 6 months of age and older. A third vaccine, Novavax, was approved for children 12 years of age and older.

During RSV season, injections of antibody-based drugs are sometimes given to protect premature babies and other very vulnerable children. Infants of mothers exposed to RSV during pregnancy may also have some immunity.

Whether your child has RSV, the flu or COVID, if you fear your child has serious breathing problems, “don’t hesitate” to go to the emergency room or call 911, said Dr. Russell Migita of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

For less serious medical problems, Migita said, call your regular health care provider for advice, use telehealth or go to an emergency room.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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