RSV, flu surge prompts action in Chatham-Kent

Two GPs in Chatham-Kent are advising to keep children with respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, out of hospital.

A surge in respiratory viruses in Ontario, including childhood RSV, is putting pressure on emergency and health care services.

Dr. Wendy Edwards, local pediatrician and director of pediatrics at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA), and Dr. Dax Biondi, family physician and director of emergency medicine at CKHA, tell parents and guardians that hydration is key to keeping children with RSV away but if If the child is dehydrated, does not eat or drink, does not urinate, and has difficulty breathing, it is best to take them to the hospital for examination.

Nasal saline drops and sprays can help clear mucus, the doctor also said, adding that parents should talk to a pharmacist about dissolving adult acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat children if cold and flu medicines for children are in short supply.

Edwards and Biondi noted that most respiratory viruses last between seven and 14 days, and a cough or fever alone is not a reason to go to an emergency room (ER).

“We are facing a dire situation where RSV, influenza and COVID-19 infections are on the rise in our communities,” said Dr. Edwards.

Biondi said he sees an increasing number of RSV cases coming to his doorstep, and as a parent he understands the concerns and anxieties of a child’s illness.

“If they’re drinking well, that’s the first check mark (stay home). If the child is responding to Tylenol (acetaminophen) and seems to be reasonably well when the Tylenol or ibuprofen is working, then That’s checkbox #2 for me,” says Dr. Biondi. “When you look at the child and the way they breathe, does it look abnormal, does it look fast, does it look shallow? Do they look like they’re breathing through their shoulders, do they look like they’re struggling? Despite the cough, But they don’t appear to be having trouble breathing, that’s the 3rd check mark that they can continue to get through this safely at home.”

Most kids infected with RSV are 15 months and younger and can get back-to-back infections, doctors said, adding that most kids are already infected with RSV by the age of two, and most will have multiple infections throughout their lives. They also say RSV is spread by contact, so hand washing and sanitizing are the best ways to stop transmission. Wearing a mask also helps prevent the spread of the virus, they said.

Doctors also tell parents that vitamins C and D and eating foods that contain vitamins C and D can help prevent viral infections. According to Dr. Edwards, cow’s milk creates mucus, which is not good for children who already have a mucus buildup from RSV, although breast milk is fine. The puff can also keep the airway open if the child is having trouble breathing, she said.

Parents and guardians can also ask their child’s doctor questions about the prescription and what to expect, Dr. Biondi noted.

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