SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Respiratory illness season has started and hospitals are seeing an increase in children hospitalized with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“Two-thirds of the pediatric floor have a respiratory illness,” Dr. Kofi Asare-Bawuah said. ”Maybe 75 percent of that is RSV and most of them are two years and under.”

Symptoms of RSV range from a runny nose, coughing, and even loss of appetite. Normally, CoxHealth sees a bulk of RSV patients in January or February.

“We think maybe we are having more violent strains that are making kids sicker,” Asare-Bawuah said. ”We feel more exposure and kids not having immunity and probably a more violent strain this year than normal is what is leading to the surge across the country.”

CoxHealth said most kids are coming to the hospital with breathing and oxygen problems, along with dehydration.

“The infection affects the small airways,” Asare-Bawuah said. ”They are unable to breathe because the small airways are filled with mucus and it’s inflamed at the same time.”

To help kids with breathing, Asare-Bawuah said they often get an oxygen mask that goes over their mouth and nose, or a nasal cannula that goes slightly in their nose. CoxHealth is also preparing for more hospitalizations.

“We have switched [shifts] around a little bit so there are two of us working during the day and one person works a bit into the evening,” Asare-Bawuah said. ”We are trying to get patients quickly in and out of the ER. We may actually send some kids home on oxygen if that is all they need and they are doing really well.”

Asare-Bawuah said it’s important for kids to wash their hands and limit exposure around others especially if parents have a baby. He also said to make sure to monitor a child’s breathing and fluid intake.

“If they are breathing really fast, then they need to be seen,” Asare-Bawuah said. ”If they’ve gone more than six to eight hours without drinking or having a wet diaper, at least call your physician.”

Asare-Bawuah wants to assure parents to not panic but keep a close eye.

“Most kids are going to do very well even when they get RSV,” Asare-Bawuah said.

Babies, infants, and older adults are the most at risk when it comes to RSV.