Treating Little Lungs With Warm Hearts

A kid-friendly space is best when a winter virus requires hospitalization

Brothers and sisters can share some wonderful things with their younger siblings this time of year—Christmas presents, a homemade valentine, or their first cup of hot cocoa. Unfortunately, the winter months are also when older kids share the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, with their siblings.

“Babies often get RSV when older kids carry the virus from school and pass it to them,” explains Melanie Howard, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Manager of The Children’s Place at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “Almost all kids are infected with RSV at least once by the time they're two years old.”

RSV causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages, and is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. In adults, it may only produce symptoms of a common cold, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, mild headache, cough, fever, and a general feeling of being ill. In premature babies and children with diseases that affect the lungs, heart, or immune system, RSV infections can lead to other more serious illnesses.

The virus spreads rapidly through schools and daycare centers because it can live on surfaces such as countertops or doorknobs as well as on hands and clothing.

“RSV is highly contagious and can be spread through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes,” Howard says. Fortunately, most cases of RSV are mild and require no specific treatment from doctors. Because RSV is a virus, antibiotics are not used as they are only effective against bacteria. Medication may sometimes be needed to help open airways.

In an infant, however, an RSV infection can be more serious and may require hospitalization so that the baby can be watched closely. Children may require fluids and possibly treatment for breathing problems. Patients who need to be in a hospital for RSV will find a warm, welcoming room and cheerful nurses and staff in The Children’s Place.

Siblings share wonderful things but can also share viruses 

“We monitor the infant’s breathing and oxygen levels,” Howard says. “We provide respiratory treatments and oxygen if they are having trouble breathing. Many times the infant doesn’t feed as well, so we supplement with fluids through an intravenous catheter to keep them well hydrated. Medications may also be used to open airways or if a secondary illness is present.”

All of this treatment is done in a bright, friendly environment that was designed with a child’s needs in mind. The Children’s Place has a variety of toys and games for kids of all ages, as well as a computer and TV in every room.

“Our pediatric care is provided in a way to help alleviate the anxiety that can come with being in a hospital, for both our young patients and their parents,” Howard says. “It helps children who are trying to get better if they can have a little fun, just as they would at home.”
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000