As the weather cools, hospitals and health care providers are preparing for virus season. It signals a rise in cases involving COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

The overview

Children’s Health hospitals saw RSV cases double between the week of Sept. 24 and the week of Oct. 8, according to data provided by the hospital system.

“We are in the midst of it,” said Dr. Preeti Sharma, Children’s Health pediatric pulmonologist and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center associate professor. “Generally, this is the time that we see RSV cases.”

RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe symptoms and require hospitalization.

October is RSV awareness month and presents a chance for spreading awareness about the virus and how to help prevent contraction.

What parents should know

Children with underlying conditions that affect the lungs, such as cystic fibrosis or chronic heart conditions, are at risk for severe symptoms.

“[RSV] causes a lot of airway swelling and particularly in the small airways called bronchioles,” Sharma said. “People who have underlying lung conditions often can’t clear secretions or breathe as easily when those bronchioles and breathing tubes are obstructed.”

RSV symptoms often start out like a common cold, she said. As symptoms progress, children can show signs of respiratory distress, such as breathing harder or faster.

If a baby or child is not feeling well and is displaying RSV symptoms, Sharma recommended parents speak to their health care provider.

For children experiencing mild symptoms, they can be treated with supportive care at home, Sharma said. Children experiencing severe symptoms may require a hospital stay and the use of oxygen or antibiotics if they develop pneumonia while sick.

One more thing

In September, the CDC recommended the first RSV vaccine for pregnant women to help protect their newborn from severe illness. The vaccine reduces risk of RSV hospitalization for babies by 57% in the first six months after birth, according to a CDC news release.

The vaccine is called Abrysvo, and the CDC recommends one dose for expecting mothers between 32-36 weeks of pregnancy before or during RSV season. Other vaccines are available for infants, children, or adults age 60 and older.

Sharma recommended parents and expecting mothers speak to their doctors about receiving the vaccination this season.

“It gives the body the tools to fight the virus before even getting sick,” she said.