RSV symptoms in kids: SoCal doctor shares how to spot breathing difficulties, signs of distress

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Friday, October 28, 2022
RSV symptoms: How to spot breathing difficulties, other distress signs
"RSV has come with a vengeance." RSV cases are pummeling pediatric wards in SoCal. Here are symptoms to look out for, plus other signs of respiratory distress.

TARZANA, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- RSV cases are pummeling pediatric wards across the country, including here in Southern California.

Children's Hospital of Orange County had to expand capacity in their emergency department.

This is the latest in a string of viruses that seem to keep on coming - one after the other. Doctors say It's taking a toll on overworked and understaffed hospitals.

The entire week that 18-month-old Joshua Bentley of Tarzana was hospitalized with RSV, he could barely crack a smile. Now, he's grinning nonstop.

Amanda Bentley said her son's winning personality is back.

"I feel like he's just feeling a whole new level of happiness. It's so funny. He's just a happy kid," Bentley said. With RSV in his rear-view window, Joshua is feeling more like his cheery self.

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Health officials are warning of a "triple threat" of respiratory viruses this winter, a so-called "tripledemic" of flu, COVID and the virus RSV.

But two weeks ago, when Joshua's oxygen levels dipped dangerously low, Bentley feared the worst.

"He stopped talking. He wasn't eating or drinking," she said.

"RSV can certainly cause respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilation," said Jenna Lyons, a pediatric hospitalist with Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.

She said RSV's harsh and early appearance is hitting hospitals with a one-two punch following months of severe summer illness.

"We've been seeing a spike in respiratory cases in kids since the summer, but initially it was rhinovirus and enterovirus predominantly. And now RSV has come with a vengeance," Lyons said.

MORE | RSV in children: What parents should know

Almost all children catch RSV at some point before they turn 2, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Now with higher than usual influenza activity, hospitals are bracing for an influx of flu patients.

"We are at capacity and we're having to overflow some of our pediatric patients onto adult floors and really wherever we can find space for them," said Lyons.

Warning signs in kids with RSV

An RSV vaccine does not exist yet. But there is a flu shot and a new COVID bivalent booster. Doctors advise getting both as soon as possible. And if your child gets sick, keep an eye on their chest and belly.

"And you see their ribs every time they breathe in, they're using their bellies to breathe, that shows they're having respiratory distress," said Lyons.

Look for signs of dehydration and change in personality.

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