Oct 20, 2022 - News

Children's Hospital nears capacity as respiratory illnesses spike

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Children’s National Hospital is nearing capacity as cases of respiratory illnesses, especially respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, spike across the country.

What’s happening: RSV — characterized by symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and fever — occurs every fall and winter, but this year’s season started earlier and has seen higher than usual case counts, says Sarah Combs, a doctor at Children’s National Hospital.

Here’s what caregivers should consider when assessing their children's health this winter:
  • Monitor your child’s overall health, Combs says. If they seem fatigued and congested but are not otherwise struggling to breathe, keep them home and ensure they’re drinking fluids.
  • However, if a child’s cough is taking the wind out of them, she recommends caregivers call their pediatrician’s office for a virtual visit or to see if their child should be brought in.

Yes, but: If your child is struggling to speak or is lethargic and unresponsive, caregivers should check to see if they’re having trouble breathing.

  • Combs recommends checking under their shirts and seeing if their stomach muscles are pulling in and out when they try to take a breath. That’s a sign they need to go to an emergency department.

Zoom out: Children’s National tells Axios that a national shortage of health care workers has exacerbated the hospital’s workload.

Be smart: One of the best ways to protect your family is to stay up-to-date on your flu and COVID shots.

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