Respiratory infections and influenza are on the rise in Utah – What you should know

Good Things Utah

Cold and flu season is upon us, and Utah is seeing the rising tide of seasonal respiratory pathogens, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, according to Intermountain Healthcare experts. 

Specific to RSV, many parts of the state are experiencing moderate to high levels of activity, according to Intermountain’s GermWatch website, which tracks illnesses and diseases throughout the state of Utah.

“RSV is an incredibly common respiratory virus that in most cases, causes mild common cold symptoms,” said Per Gesteland, MD, University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital. “Some people can have the infection and have no symptoms at all. Most healthy individuals recover in about a week.”

“But for young children and older adults the infection or its complications can be serious,” said Dr. Gesteland. “Infants and children are especially at risk. Infants under one year of age, particularly those with a history of prematurity, are among those of highest concern. Even older adults who have a condition affecting their lungs, heart or immune system can also be more severely affected.”

Dr. Gesteland explained that while many infants and young children get colds affecting the nose and mouth that will resolve in three to seven days and not require intervention, RSV has a higher chance of progressing down deep into the lungs and causing bronchiolitis or pneumonia. 

“Antibiotics won’t help since RSV are viral infections,” said Dr. Gesteland. “For infants older than three months, children and teenagers with simple cough and congestion with or without mild intermittent fevers of 100.4 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, most may be treated for symptoms at home. Fevers that are persistent for more than three days or single fevers of 104 degrees or greater should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. These same infants and young children who have difficulty breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, are significantly fussy, inactive, sleepy, or wheezing, should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.”

If any pediatric patient develops fast breathing or breathing that uses muscles above or below the rib cage, they should see a healthcare provider immediately, which may be the emergency department.

“Infants under three months of age with a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater, should always be evaluated right away by a healthcare provider. Every child is unique and general healthcare advice may not always be applicable, so ask your own doctor if you are concerned. It is always appropriate to err on the side of caution and seek care early before a medical urgency becomes an emergency,” said Dr. Gesteland.

Dr. Gesteland suggests that using a humidifier, saline drops and suctioning nasal secretions with a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator device is a good way to help with symptoms. Increasing fluid intake can help, as well as giving your child an age-appropriate dose of non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin should be avoided as it is linked to Reye syndrome.

To prevent spreading germs, good hand-washing hygiene is always important. Disinfecting toys, counter tops, doorknobs, and other surfaces can also help you reduce the chance of spreading disease to others.  Any time a child or adult has a fever they should stay home from school and other activities.

“If you have a child at risk, you might consider limiting your social exposure for a while by not going places where there are a lot of people in close quarters,” noted Dr. Gesteland. 

Individuals can commonly spread the virus a few days before symptoms, and up to a week after symptoms appear.

If you are concerned but don’t want to take your child out into the winter weather – or you have other children you don’t want to take into the doctor’s office – Intermountain Connect Care is a video visit with a caregiver that costs $59 (or may be accepted by insurance). You can download the app at http://www.intermountainconnectcare.com/.

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