Public health measures like masking key to keeping children safe, healthy during RSV season | OHSU News

Public health measures like masking key to keeping children safe, healthy during RSV season

A joint statement from Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, OHSU Health, Providence
Josephine "JoJo" Schmidt, 2, washes her hands after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine. Frequent hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines, and avoiding people who are sick are all ways to help prevent the spread of RSV. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

Like hospitals and health systems nationwide, our health systems are continuing to see a high number of babies and young children with RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, requiring hospitalization.

RSV is a common respiratory illness — almost all children will have an RSV infection by age 2 — that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms that typically go away in a week or two. However, it’s likely children’s immune systems are not as prepared to fight the virus this year because they were not exposed during the pandemic, when masking, physical distancing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces was common.

Because of the high volume of sick young children requiring emergency services at this time, caregivers and families, unfortunately, may experience long wait times in our emergency departments. Additionally, appointments for urgent, immediate and primary care may take longer to schedule. Except when emergency care is needed, we urge families and caregivers with concerns to first call their primary care provider.

Symptoms of RSV infection usually include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever or wheezing. Serious symptoms that might indicate the need for emergency care could include trouble breathing, trouble eating due to rapid breathing, wheezing, severe dehydration or lethargy. A helpful example of RSV’s effects on a child’s breathing can be found here.

The best thing parents and caregivers can do to keep their children healthy and safe this fall and winter is to practice all the measures that were emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Many parents and families are worried about their child’s symptoms, and wondering if they should seek a test for RSV. An RSV test is not necessary for the majority of cases, since most cases of RSV result in mild symptoms that can be managed from home; testing would not change the treatment and care recommendations from clinicians. In the hospital, RSV tests are used to best direct patient care for severe cases.

Eric Roth, M.D., Chief of Hospital Operations, Kaiser Permanente Northwest

Dan Bissell, M.D., Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center

Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, OHSU Health

Elizabeth Ransom, M.D., FACS, Chief Medical Officer, Providence Oregon/Central Division