SAN DIEGO — Rady Children’s Hospital has seen a significant increase of cases of respiratory illnesses in children that’s requiring one or two nights stay – which is putting a strain on the health center. 

“What we’re seeing this year, which is really unique, is that all the viruses are now coming out all the same time, all early,” said Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious disease at Rady Children’s Hospital. 

The most common by far is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which usually hits the community in December or January.  Not only is it early, but combined with influenza, COVID and the other multiple strains of virus, experts warn of a dangerous winter ahead.

“We know that if you have two viruses at the same time you are sicker than if you just have one and we are seeing kids with three and even four viruses all at the same time, and I’ve never seen that in 40 years,” Dr. Bradley said.

In the case of RSV, it presents like the common cold, but can be extremely dangerous if it migrates to the lungs – especially for babies and toddlers.

“It causes inflammation in the lungs. The virus infects the lining cells in your airways and can cause tremendous inflammation. The muscles around these airwaves go into spasms because they are all irritated and the kids get wheezing, which is pretty characteristic of the virus,” Dr. Bradley said.

For parents, recognizing when your child is struggling to breathe is key. Dr. Bradley recommends using a finger oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels so you know when it’s time to get to medical attention.

“If they’re breathing fast or they’re having trouble breathing, then you know that the body is trying to get more pressure and more oxygen into the lungs,” Dr. Bradley said.