Doctors Seeing More RSV Cases In Infants

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

It's that time of year again.

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus - or RSV - is back, and some doctors say this season appears to be worse than previous years.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that can be most dangerous in young children under the age of 12 months. Symptoms include a runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing and fever. While most healthy infants will not need to be hospitalized, the CDC estimates more than 100,000 are admitted to hospitals across the country every year.

At Wesley Medical Center in East Wichita, doctors say the pediatric unit is full. Of all the patients in the hospital's children's wing, an estimated 30% have RSV. Nurses say RSV patients account for the largest group within a single diagnosis.

Via Christi St. Francis also reports more RSV patients, adding the increase was expected around this time of the year. Doctors at Via Christi say their patient numbers are in line with previous years. Via Christi Pediatrics has also seen an increase in Rhinovirus, bronchiolitis and pneumonia recently.

At WMC, doctors have set up an outpatient RSV clinic. Parents whose children are diagnosed with RSV by a family physician and referred to the clinic can have their child's nasal passages suctioned to remove excess mucus.

Chris Tabtab has been bringing his 8-week-old daughter, Adysin, to the clinic for the last few days.

"When the doctor told us she had RSV... my first thought was, 'great, now she has to go to the hospital,'" Tabtab said. Fortunately, Adysin's symptoms did not require hospitalization.

"We take a small tube and go down through their nose to the back of their throat," said Diana Mark, a respiratory therapist with WMC. "Parents are very shocked by what we can pull out of these babies."

Doctors admitted 10-month-old Carley Daas to the hospital on Tuesday. Her parents said she had been suffering from what they thought was a slight cold over the weekend. By Tuesday, Carley was having trouble breathing.

After a few suction treatments and close monitoring by hospital staff, Carley was able to go home Thursday afternoon.

"She's great," said Carley's mom, Stephanie Daas. "She's back to her old self. She's doing really well."

If your child has RSV, there are steps you can take to make them more comfortable at home. Experts say your baby should get plenty of fluids in smaller amounts on a more frequent feeding schedule.

Using a cool mist humidifier can also help moisten dry air in a room, which helps loosen mucus.

Nasal saline drops and a bulb or battery-operated nasal suction device (available at most stores and pharmacies) can help clear your infant's nose of most mucus, helping the child to feed easier.

Experts say you should contact a doctor if your baby has the following symptoms:

* Seems sleepier than usual
* Is pale
* Makes much less urine than usual, a sign of dehydration
* Is feeding much less than usual
* Is breathing fast, especially if using extra muscles or wheezing
* If you are unable to clear the mucus
* A high fever (100.4 if your baby is less than 2 months, 102.2 if your baby is over 2 months)
* Any time you have a concern that things just aren't right

Parents should call 911 and seek emergency help if their child has the following symptoms:

* Is blue at the fingertips or around the lips
* Has increased difficulty breathing or worsening cough
* Shows signs of fatigue or lethargy, difficulty waking up, confusion, or lack of interest in surroundings
* Any time you feel your baby needs immediate help

For more information on RSV, including answers to frequently asked questions, click on "Centers For Disease Control & Prevention - RSV" located under Related Links> at the bottom of this article.

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