RSV, COVID-19 or the flu? A pediatrician breaks down the symptoms amid sharp rise in cases

WESTWOOD — Melissa Levin is a mother of three in Westwood who has been battling all the colds and viruses this time of year – especially since her seven-month-old Aidan started daycare.

“Socialization and childcare are really important to us as double-working parents.

He says Aidan was already exposed to RSV and now has a double ear infection.

“Especially if you have a small baby, this is definitely a major concern since RSV can change really quickly, which may seem like mild symptoms and then suddenly you’re in respiratory distress,” Levin said.

Newton-Wellesley Hospital Interim President of Pediatrics, Dr. “We expect this year to be a pretty busy year for viruses,” said Mark Blumenthal.

He says cases of RSV are on the rise among children.

Boston Children’s Hospital also began delaying elective surgeries earlier this month, warning families of “significant waiting times” for hospital beds due to illnesses like RSV, long before the typical flu season begins.

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“With the pandemic, the seasonality of the viruses changed somewhat, so you can typically see something like hand-foot-mouth in the summer, RSV in the winter, flu in the winter, and that has all changed more recently, Blumenthal said.

Dr. Blumenthal said that RSV has spread much earlier this year, and he expects an increase in COVID-19 cases soon as well.

Dr. “People’s immune systems probably took a break during covid because everyone was a bit masked and didn’t go out,” Blumenthal said. “Now he’s coming back with some vengeance.”

If that’s not enough, there is another virus to watch out for this year.

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Dr. “Approximately every two years, Enterovirus can cause this ascending paralysis-type or weakness-type syndrome, and 2022 is one of the years we look forward to that,” Blumenthal said.

While enterovirus is worrisome in some cases, Dr. Blumenthal says these serious cases are extremely rare.

Dr. “If we’re going to live our lives, then you’re going to be exposed, so I think part of it is just accepting that your child is going to get sick and it’s okay,” Blumenthal said.

Doctors say it’s hard to tell which virus your child might have, as RSV, COVID, and flu show similar symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, or fever.

But some doctors say a sore throat can be an early sign of COVID-19.

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Dr. “I don’t think knowing the virus will make a difference to what you do for your child at home,” Blumenthal said.

But sometimes a child may need to go to the hospital, so be careful if your child has trouble breathing, is wheezing, shows signs of dehydration or has a persistent high fever, call their doctor.

A simple reminder that many parents may need after living in a pandemic for two and a half years.

Blumenthal says children should get flu and covid vaccines to protect against the most severe symptoms, although these vaccines aren’t perfect.

There is currently no vaccine for RSV.

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