A Nebraska pediatric nurse speaks up to share her my daughter’s experience with RSVa respiratory virus that is exploding among children, leaving many pediatric hospitals across the country reaching full capacity.
Hannah Brand said her daughter Paitynn was just 2 months old when she developed what appeared to be a cold.
Over the course of several days, Brand said Paitynn got progressively worse and began having difficulty breathing.
“When she breathed, she was panting and you could see she was almost sweating,” said Brand, a mother of three, “Good morning america.” “She was working so hard to catch a breath.”
Brand said seeing her daughter gasping for breath was a “red flag” that she needed to be seen by a pediatrician.
“A big red flag for me was the sagging of the skin around the ribs, called retractions, and for children, especially a 2-month-old, retractions are a big sign of increased work of breathing,” Brand said. “So that was a big, big indicator that something is wrong here, that this is more than just a cold.”
Brand said a pediatrician diagnosed her daughter with RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, which usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms but can become severe, especially in infants.
In Brand’s case, her daughter was admitted to a local hospital and then flown to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, more than 100 miles from the family’s hometown.
“I’m used to seeing this every day in other kids but when it came to my daughter experiencing this it was almost like my nurse brain went out the window and it was 100% mommy brain and it was so scary. “. Mark said. “It was a big plus that she knew what to look for and how to intervene if necessary, but at the time she was in 100% mommy mode and she was so terrified.”
In the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, Brand said he saw what many hospitals across the country are experiencing: a pediatric patient overflow.
Hospitals in more than two dozen states, including Rhode Island, Washington, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia told ABC News they are feeling the pressure of a crisis higher than expected. expected. rate of certain pediatric infections other than COVID-19.
Nationwide, pediatric bed capacity is the highest in two years, with 75% of the estimated 40,000 beds occupied, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The room we were in was completely full,” Brand said. “Each room had a child.”
Brand said he considers his family “one of the lucky ones” because Paitynn responded quickly to treatment.
She was given nasal oxygen to help her breathe and was given light sedation, which allowed her to rest and get better, according to Brand.
“Once he started that light sedation, he was able to sleep and we noticed right away on his monitors that his oxygen improved, his heart rate improved,” he said. “While she slept, her body slowly recovered.”
Paitynn was released from the hospital after just two days and continued to improve, according to Brand.
Today, a month after being hospitalized, Brand said Paitynn experiences occasional coughing fits but is otherwise “back to her happy old self.”
“We continue to follow up very closely with their pediatrician just because the risk that later down the line maybe they’ll develop childhood asthma, reactive airway disease, that kind of thing may go up a little bit more after they’ve had an RSV diagnosis. “, said. Brand. “We’ve just had to keep a close eye on her.”
Brand said closely monitoring Paitynn has included keeping the baby away from crowds and asking friends and family not to touch or kiss her unnecessarily.
She said her advice to other parents and caregivers concerned about RSV is to “trust your instincts” and seek medical help.
“If for any reason you question your child’s condition or you’re just not comfortable with how they look, trust your gut,” Brand said. “Please take them in to see them. If you think he’s not comfortable with something, trust that instinct and get them some help.”
What parents need to know about RSV
RSV is a contagious virus that can be spread from virus droplets transferred by a cough or sneeze from an infected person; by direct contact with the virus, such as kissing the face of a child with RSV; and by touching surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, and crib rails, that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days, but some babies can continue to shed the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for up to four weeks, according to the CDC.
Among children, premature infants and young children with weakened immune systems or chronic congenital heart or lung disease are the most vulnerable to RSV complications.
“Almost all children have contracted RSV at least once by the time they are 2 years old, but it is the younger children, especially those under 6 months, who can really have problems with RSV and sometimes end up in the hospital,” says Dr. William Linam, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Atlanta Children’s Hospitalsaying ABC News last year. “That’s where we want to get the word out, to families with young children or children with medical conditions, making sure they’re aware of what’s going on.”
In the first two to four days of contracting RSV, a child may show symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and congestion.
Later, symptoms can escalate to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Parents should also be alerted to symptoms including dehydration and not eating, according to Linam.
“Not having a wet diaper for more than eight hours is usually a good marker that a child is dehydrated and a good reason to seek medical attention,” he said. “Sometimes children younger than 6 months can have pauses when breathing, and that is something that requires immediate medical attention.”
Infants and young children can usually recover at home with RSV unless they begin to have difficulty breathing, are not eating or drinking, or seem more tired than usual, in which case parents should contact their pediatrician and /or take your child to the emergency room.
Home care for children with RSV may include Tylenol and Motrin for fever, as well as making sure the child is hydrated and eating.
Parents can help protect their children from RSV by continuing to follow the three Ws of the pandemic as much as possible: wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance, according to Linam.
Babies who are born prematurely (less than 35 weeks) or who are born with chronic lung disease may benefit from medication to prevent RSV complications, as they are at higher risk of severe disease. Parents should discuss this with their pediatrician.
Courtney Wilson and Sasha Pezenik of ABC News contributed to this report.