St. Luke's Children's Hospital experiencing an unusual pediatric volume for this time of year

Posted at 5:01 PM, Oct 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-25 19:01:24-04

BOISE, Idaho — Hospitals are filling up nationwide as a rash of respiratory infections spreads.

The Department of Health and Human Services says more pediatric hospital beds are filled now than they have been since 2020. RSV, influenza, and enterovirus cases are high, causing many medical facilities to be overwhelmed. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for RSV so it can cause severe upper and lower respiratory symptoms in infants and young children.

Doctors say kids under the age of two are the most at risk because they likely haven't encountered any version of the virus before. Many experts believe we are seeing this rise because many kids were not exposed to as many viruses during the pandemic because of the measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Locally, St. Luke's Children's Hospital is experiencing an unusual pediatric volume for this time of year, partially due to continuing population growth in our communities and also due to increased seasonal respiratory illnesses.

"We are probably the most physically isolated hospital in the entire country," said Dr. Kenny Bramwell, System Medical Director for St. Luke's Children's.

The current surge in hospitalizations in the Treasure Valley is not only RSV-related, but Dr. Kenny Bramwell says they're also admitting infants for COVID and the flu. Even though they have the beds, they don't always have the staff for the number of infants they see. They are occasionally transferring patients to another healthcare facility out of state.

"The older teenagers and the youngest infants, we try and find places for them within our Children's hospital as best we can," said Dr. Kenny Bramwell.

RSV and flu cases usually rise late in the fall or early spring, but doctors say more in-person events and loosened mask restrictions could contribute to the earlier spike.

"The younger the children are, and the smaller their airways are, the more problematic that is for them," said Dr. Kenny Bramwell.

The CDC says that most children will contract RSV before the age of two. Symptoms are usually mild runny nose and coughing, but in some cases, RSV can be dangerous.

Public Health officials advise parents to keep their children as protected as possible from respiratory infections by ensuring their kids are vaccinated and taking steps to prevent the spread of germs. The advice is familiar - wash your hands often, mask up when sick, and try to limit your exposure. And if your child does get sick - watch for the warning signs of blue skin and fast breathing. If they can't drink from their bottle, that is the time to head to the emergency room.