Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV is on the rise in the Triad, particularly among children.
RSV is the virus behind bronchiolitis, a disease that affects young children, filling their airways — nose, throats, and lungs — with mucus. Those most affected — six months and younger — have a difficult time getting rid of the illness due to smaller airways, and weaker muscles unable to produce a forceful cough.
Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem has seen a spike in patients diagnosed with bronchiolitis. Pediatric Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Michael Mitchell says he and his staff examine the patient’s level of activity, their hydration status, and signs of respiratory distress.
"We look along their rib cage along the side," says Mitchell. "And we see if we can see each rib as they're breathing in. Usually, in a child breathing, you shouldn’t be able to see each rib defined when they’re breathing in. So, that’s one place we look. Another is their abdomen if we can see under their rib cage as they’re sucking in."
Mitchell calls this RSV season — which began in October, but typically starts in December — the strongest that he’s seen in his career. He says there are not a lot of non-emergency bronchiolitis treatments available. For very young children, he suggests monitoring their hydration status, using saline solution to flush out clogged nasal passages, and Tylenol for fever. He says to seek medical care when necessary.