RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Local hospitals are experiencing an unimaginable crisis — they’re close to running out of beds for sick children.

The crisis stems from the result of a virus called RSV, which is making its way not only across our region, but the entire country. And, RSV is affecting young children. 

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It may cause symptoms that sound similar to that of the common cold, but a pediatrician in Richmond said it is more severe. 

In fact, RSV is currently the leading cause behind why hospitals like the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU are seeing a 95% capacity.

RSV is known as a common cold-causing virus for adults, but for small kids, it can lead to more serious side effects and can cause inflammation of the lower airways in the lungs. The result of these symptoms makes it hard for an infected child to breathe, and may lead to the need for respiratory support.

For adults, the symptoms may appear to be something like a runny nose, a headache or even a fever.

​Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, a general pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU said RSV is definitely something to worry about if young children are effected.

“We get worried when we see children having fast breathing, using extra muscles to breathe — nostrils flaring or some rib sucking in — when they take a breath, any bluish color change, [this] means they’re having a hard time taking in oxygen” Kimbrough said.

Respiratory illnesses are creating a surge in the number of children who have been sent to hospitals in both pediatric acute care and pediatric intensive care units.  

“The worst days of RSV is days three to five of the illness, so, it can lead to a two- to three-day hospital stay. But for some children it can be much longer than that, especially if they have any underlying health conditions that needs the extra breathing support. [Their stay] can last for several days, if not a week or more” Kimbrough adds.

VCU Health is seeing a 17% positivity rate for RSV, meaning that all of the people who had symptoms, tested positive for the virus.

Kimbrough said it’s never too late to start taking precautions.

“So, now is the time if you stopped masking indoors, to think about restarting that to protect these vulnerable kiddos who may not yet have that immune system [strength] to protect them,” she said.

Dr. Shari Barkin, the physician-in-chief for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the VCU School of Medicine told 8News that “as we are seeing everywhere across the country, the impact of respiratory illnesses has hit children especially hard.”

Barkin is encouraging everyone to wear their masks, wash their hands and stay out of crowded areas this winter season. “When we did this last year, we reduced common respiratory illnesses like RSV by 98%. Let’s keep our kids well and out of the hospital,” she said.

Kimbrough said there are currently seven children in the intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital at VCU. According to Kimbrough, there is a vaccine for RSV, but it’s reserved for children with very severe cases.