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During winter virus season, young children are greatest risk

Posted January 12

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— Every winter, WakeMed Children's Hospital staff expect a rise in young children needing their services. Winter viruses are upon us, and often very young children are the ones to suffer most. In most cases, a pediatrician can advise you how to provide care at home.

WakeMed pediatrician Dr. Karen Chilton says RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, infects the lungs and breathing passages.

“Lots and lots of kids are sick with RSV, right now, as well as other respiratory viruses,” Chilton said.

Symptoms include problems feeding, acting lethargic, wheezing and some labored breathing.

"So if babies are not able to nurse or take their typical amount by bottle, they should at least be seen by their pediatrician," she said.

Children admitted to the hospital need oxygen support and IV fluids. This week, Chilton said they're seeing fewer cases of RSV but more cases of another winter virus.

"But we're seeing an uptick last week in the number of flu cases which we have not seen before this," she said.

Chilton said it's not too late to get the flu vaccine, especially for pregnant mothers. Babies younger than 6 months cannot get the vaccine, so she recommends not exposing the baby to large numbers of people, especially those who are coughing.

Anyone handling young babies should frequently wash their hands. WakeMed and other hospitals have already begun visitor restrictions: only children 12 years and older can enter pediatrics and intensive care.

“That's both to protect our patients in the hospital from getting other illnesses that are brought in by visitors - as well as protecting visitors who are healthy from catching things that are in the hospital,” Chilton said.

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