Is it RSV, COVID-19, or the flu? A paediatrician explains the symptoms as the number of reported cases continues to grow.


WESTWOOD, Calif. Melissa Levin, a Westwood mother of three, has been battling the flu and viruses this time of year, especially since her seven-month-old Aidan entered daycare.

“Socialization and childcare are crucial for us as dual working parents; we need childcare, so daycare makes the most sense, but we also know there’s high exposure,” Levin explained.

According to her, Aidan had previously been exposed to RSV, and he now has a double ear infection.

“It’s a major concern, especially if you have a young baby because RSV can morph quickly from mild symptoms to respiratory distress,” Levin said.

“We expect viruses to be quite active this year,” said Dr. Mark Blumenthal, Interim Chair of Pediatrics at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

According to him, RSV cases in children are on the rise.

Boston Children’s Hospital also began postponing elective surgery earlier this month, warning families of “significant wait times” for hospital beds due to illnesses such as RSV well before the typical flu season began.

“With the pandemic, the seasonality of viruses has changed,” Dr. Blumenthal explained. “Typically, you might see something like hand-foot-mouth in the summer, RSV in the winter, flu in the winter, and those have all changed more recently.”

Dr. Blumenthal believes RSV spread much earlier this year and anticipates an increase in COVID-19 cases soon as well.

“People’s immune systems probably took a vacation during covid since everyone was masked up and not going out,” Dr. Blumenthal explained. “It’s kind of coming back with a fury right now.”

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s another illness to watch out for this year.

“About every other year, Enterovirus can cause this ascending paralytic type or weakness type syndrome, and 2022 is one of those years,” Dr. Blumenthal explained.

While enterovirus can be dangerous in some situations, Dr. Blumenthal notes severe cases are uncommon.

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

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

However, some doctors believe that a sore throat could be an early sign of COVID-19.

“I don’t think knowing the virus affects what you’re going to do at home for your child,” Dr. Blumenthal said.

However, sometimes a child will require hospitalization, so if your child has difficulty breathing, wheezing, shows signs of dehydration, or has a persistent high fever, call their doctor.

After living in a pandemic for two and a half years, many parents may need a simple reminder.

Dr. Blumenthal believes that even though flu and covid vaccines aren’t perfect, children should get them to protect against the most severe symptoms.

There is currently no RSV vaccine available.

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