Respiratory viruses are back to “normal” this year

November 26, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

During the fall and winter of 2020-21, cases of flu among children dropped dramatically.

Medical experts believe the heavy emphasis on masking, social distancing and staying home played a large role in keeping cases low.

Now, with society more open, travel increasing and people getting tired of pandemic safety measures such as masks, respiratory viruses are beginning to circulate at a level closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which typically peak in the fall, surged this past summer in some parts of the U.S. Why? Experts have speculated that the suppression of viral spread through the winter of 2020 merely delayed the usual season.

RSV, like flu and other respiratory viruses, usually cause mild to moderate symptoms in healthy older kids and adults. But in some people, these viruses can lead to serious complications.

We aren’t likely to see another flu season like 2020-21. Parents are already seeing respiratory viral infections spreading through their children’s schools — more in line with what we typically see during cold and flu season.

If you haven’t done it yet, schedule an appointment for a flu vaccine for yourself and your kids. Getting a flu shot is an important step in protecting yourself and others from seasonal flu.

Also, children ages 5 and older can now get the COVID-19 vaccine, offering protection from severe COVID-19 illness for the winter ahead.

How do you know whether your child has a viral infection?

Common symptoms of respiratory viral infections include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny/congested nose
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Often a respiratory viral infection can lead to complications, such as tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia or croup.

How do you treat a viral infection?

Since antibiotics do not work against viruses, the primary way to treat a respiratory viral infection is at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you’re wondering about the best way to treat your child, ask your child’s pediatrician or family medicine physician for direction.

When should you seek medical attention?

Healthy children with mild symptoms do not typically need medical attention unless they are having trouble breathing, aren’t drinking or have a fever that lasts more than two days.

What can your family do to prevent illness?

  • Wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect your home, focusing on things people often touch such as doorknobs, toys, light switches and handles.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or the crook of your arm.
  • If you’re sick, stay home to prevent the spread of germs.

One way to protect against illnesses like croup is hand washing. Encourage your kids to wash their hands regularly and properly.

This blog was reviewed by Uzma Muneer, D.O., a pediatrician with Elmhurst Clinic.

Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Learn about our pediatric emergency care.

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