NEW YORK (WABC) – Children’s hospitals in the tri-state area and parts of the U.S. are experiencing an uptick in a common respiratory disease that can cause serious breathing problems in babies.

RSV cases fell sharply two years ago when the pandemic closed schools, daycare centers and businesses. With the easing of restrictions in the summer of 2021, doctors have noticed an alarming increase in the number of viruses that are usually autumn-winter.

Now it’s back again, and doctors are bracing for the possibility that RSV, flu and COVID-19 could all come together to stress hospitals.

Pediatric wards across the country are overflowing with children with respiratory problems. About three times more children were hospitalized than usual. The kids love the 5-month-old Bentley Phillips.

“It started with wheezing, he progressed so fast, his oxygen was so low, we don’t know what would have happened if we had been home longer than we were,” said mother Jazelyn Phillips.

Bentley has RSV, a virus that often presents with more severe symptoms in children than in adults, and RSV accounts for some of the cases that fill hospitals.

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But pediatric cases of seasonal flu and COVID also occupy beds.

As of Tuesday, at least 80% of children’s beds were filled in 14 states across the country. Babies have more problems than adults with diseases of the upper respiratory tract.

“It’s harder for really small babies to get rid of congestion, they can’t sneeze, they can’t cough as much, they don’t have the chest muscles to really expel all that stuff, so babies are at increased risk when it comes to RSV, the flu when they’re hospitalized.” Stanford Child Health.

But what are concerned parents to do?

“The first thing I would recommend to parents is what I did as a parent is to vaccinate my kids, because if you can vaccinate them against the flu and the COVID, which better relieves the two problems, it also creates more capacity in the system healthcare, and it just makes it better for everyone,” said White House Coordinator for the COVID Response Dr. Ashish Jha.

The federal government is preparing in case hospitals begin to struggle to keep up.

“We’re really looking very closely at pediatric hospital health care capabilities, and obviously if hospitals need help, we’re going to step in and help them make sure that all children across America get the care they need,” said Dr. Jha.

In New York, it’s the flu that’s seen more hospitalizations than usual, and experts say that children who are unvaccinated are the most likely to get sick from the flu, as well as from COVID.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


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