Simplified: Sioux Falls hospitals (and hospitals across the country) are seeing a spike in RSV cases much earlier in the year than normal. Here's what you need to know.

Why it matters

  • RSV cases spike every year. That spike usually happens in January or February, but this year, it's happening right now, said Dr. Carl Galloway, pediatric hospitalist medical director for Sanford Children's Hospital.
  • Avera spokesman Michelle Pellman confirmed the other major hospital system in town is also seeing a spike in RSV cases at this time.
  • Most kids are able to be treated for the very common virus at home, Galloway said. But it's the very youngest kids who have the greatest risk of having trouble breathing or needing to be hospitalized.
"The hospital is very busy right now," Galloway said. "It’s been certainly some stressors with staffing and room numbers. But its not unusual (compared to annual spikes in past winters). Β It’s what we deal with every year. It's not something to panic about by any means."

What is RSV?

It's a respiratory virus, and Galloway said many other respiratory viruses look and act the same as RSV.

For adults and older children, RSV is typically not a very big deal. You may not even know you've had it, as symptoms tend to be like a common cold.

For young kids and babies, RSV can get very serious or require hospitalization.

"It's the younger kids who typically end up having more severe disease, more trouble with breathing," Galloway said.

How can I avoid it?

To be frank, you probably can't.

  • Every kid is going to end up getting RSV at some point, Galloway said, but the trick is trying to avoid getting it in very young children because they're most affected.

Big things to do in terms of prevention include:

  • Making sure kids aren't exposed to tobacco,
  • Avoiding people who are known to have RSV,
  • Keep washing your hands.

What do I do if I (or my kid) gets it?

Stay hydrated and stay home – just like you would with most illnesses.

"The very, very large majority of kids are able to be managed at home with this," Galloway said.

When is it time to call a doctor?

Seek medical attention if you (or your kid) is:

  • having trouble breathing,
  • sucking in air,
  • seemingly dehydrated
  • if they seem more lethargic than usual.

There's nothing to make RSV go away faster, Galloway said, but the main treatments – both in the hospital and at home – are focused on hydration and making sure the patient is breathing well.