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Local pediatrician addresses early spike in RSV cases, what you should know

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) - Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases have been rising across the country. Its a virus that affects the lungs and airways producing mucus, making it hard to breathe for some.

Doctors say cases usually come up every year, however, in the winter. Numbers are a bit high this early on and the health experts are not even sure why. The start of school could be a factor, but the ones most affected by this virus are young children around the age of 2.

"The peak of illness is three to five days. It usually gets better after about seven to ten days, if symptoms are continuing to improve, but that cough with RSV can really last six to eight weeks," UnityPoint Health pediatrician Dr. Nicole Bentley said.

Trouble breathing and dehydration are some of the worst symptoms of RSV which can lead to hospitalization.

Anyone can become sick with RSV. Adults and older children may experience cold-like symptoms such as a cough or runny nose, but parents with younger children need to keep a close watch. 

"If you start to see retractions or sucking in underneath the ribs, in between the ribs, things like that would be signs that your kiddo needs to see a doctor," Dr. Bentley said.

Patients can be tested for RSV but in most cases it's diagnosed with an exam. Dr. Bentley says testing is usually reserved for kids at high-risk for being hospitalized with the virus. Children under the age of two, premature babies, and kids with other health conditions fall into that high-risk group. 

Dr. Bentley says if your child has symptoms of RSV you can treat the virus at home unless symptoms get worse.

"Ways that parents can help their kids at home are just using saline in the nose, suctioning out all that mucus to help them move air a little bit better to those lower airways, and then helping give them smaller more frequent feeds or fluids to help keep them hydrated," she said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can align with RSV so if it is a school aged child who is sick, it's recommended they stay home until a doctor can rule out COVID-19, and the child is fever-free for 24 hours, with improving symptoms.