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Why Kids Are More Vulnerable To Catching a Cold This Summer

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
mother holds a tissue to a  young toddler's nose in bed

If it seems like summer colds are on the rise this year, they are. Cold viruses have been circulating more than normal this time of year as people shed face masks and attend social gatherings.

Until now, COVID-19 precautions tamped down the spread of cold and flu viruses. But this summer, children appear to be especially vulnerable to catching a cold because their immune systems have not been exposed to common cold viruses for more than 15 months, says Laurel Roach-Armao, MD, a pediatrician at UH Rainbow Medina Pediatrics.

RSV a Special Concern

Of special concern is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus usually seen in the fall, winter and spring. RSV can cause serious lung infections, especially in young infants, premature babies, children and adults with weakened immune systems and older adults with underlying lung conditions. Children younger than age 2 with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease are also at risk.

“Children are usually exposed to RSV the first year of life, but many babies were not exposed as they normally would be during the pandemic,” Dr. Roach-Armao says.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June issued an advisory about an unusual increase in RSV cases across southern U.S. states.

About RSV

Symptoms of RSV include fever, runny nose and cough. Young infants may also have irritability, decreased appetite, lethargy and pauses in breathing.

RSV is not severe in most cases. But the emergence of the virus in recent months has put many infants in the hospital, according to news reports. In an average year, RVS leads to hospitalization of about 58,000 children under age 5, and 177,000 adults 65 and older, according to the CDC.

RSV spreads easily, through airborne droplets that get in your eyes, nose or mouth. The virus also spreads through contact with hard surfaces such as toys and doorknobs.

Take Precautions to Avoid Colds

If you have a summer cold, it’s not necessarily RSV. Other common cold viruses are coronaviruses (the same family of viruses that results in COVID-19) and rhinoviruses.

Symptoms of the common cold can be similar to COVID-19: sore throat, coughing, headaches and body aches. But Covid-19 can cause a wider range of symptoms and more serious complications.

Dr. Roach-Armao says people who are concerned about their symptoms should be tested for COVID-19. Also, symptomatic adults and children should say at home and avoid spreading their germs.

Dr. Roach-Armao’s advice to stay healthy this summer is same as during cold and cough season: Wash or sanitize your hands often;  avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing or otherwise appear ill.

Parents and caregivers of infants also are advised to clean and disinfect hard surfaces in the home and avoid crowded indoor areas with the baby.

Related Links

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has the region’s largest coordinated network of pediatric primary care providers, committed to delivering the very best care to children of all ages. Learn more about pediatric care at UH Rainbow or find a pediatric practice near you.

 

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