CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Some children’s hospitals around the country are being overwhelmed with patients suffering from respiratory illness, but it’s not COVID-19. It’s a virus that’s been around longer: Respiratory Syncitial Virus, known as RSV.

“It’s a very common virus,” said Dr. James Saperstone, Community Care Pediatrician. “It might be that certain strains are a little more aggressive.”

For most kids, RSV usually just causes mild cold-like symptoms, like a runny nose and mild fever. There’s no antibiotic or treatment for it, so most kids just have to wait it out. However, for premature infants and immunocompromised kids, it can be more dangerous.

“We’re seeing a little more kids ending up in the hospital needing oxygen,” said Dr. Saperstone.

Dr. Patricia Hopkins, Professor of Pediatrics at Albany Medial Center explained how the virus seems to be spreading differently this year.

“We [typically] see our first cases around this time of year, and the cases increase through the winter, and we see the most cases in January, February,” Dr. Hopkins explained, “and what we’ve seen this year is, we saw our first cases over the summer, and now it’s increasing. We’re seeing more and more right now, and it’s looking like we’re heading into a peak even before the holiday season.”

Schenectady mom, Brittany Barnhill just went through a scary time with RSV in her 8-month-old daughter, Briseis, who spent two out of three of her days at Albany Med in the Pediatric ICU. Thankfully, Briseis is doing okay now. Barnhill said Briseis was not born prematurely and has no pre-existing conditions, and wanted to use her experience with her daughter to inform parents of potential signs to look out for.

“The breathing was very labored, very fast at times, very slow at times,” Barnhill recalled. “She had some periods of apnea, which is periods of pauses in her breathing. Some of the days, also, she did seem herself. This was a progressive thing. It did start off slow and then got worse.”

Other signs include:

  • Fast or short breaths
  • Grunting noises
  • Chest caving in with each breath
  • Skin turning blue or purple due to lack of oxygen. On darker skin, look for changes to lips, tongue, gums, and around the eyes