It happens every year: when the weather gets colder, more people get sick. This year, the “tripledemic” of respiratory viruses has struck again. Though the rates of RSV, Covid, and the flu seem to have peaked and are beginning to decline, these viruses are still affecting people across the country.
Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your children healthy this winter.
How do I know if I’m sick with Covid, flu, or RSV?
These viruses share similar symptoms: cough, fever, potentially shortness of breath. Because of this, it can be hard to tell which virus you have. Plus, you might not have one of these viruses at all, and may just be experiencing the common cold.
This chart from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases breaks it down.
If you’re unsure which virus you have, utilize online clinical resources like video visits with your providers. If your symptoms worsen, then it’s time to visit your provider in-person.
What are the effects of these viruses on pregnant people?
If you’re pregnant, these viruses may have a more serious effect on your health.
RSV: Most adults who contract RSV have mild cases. However, RSV can increase the chances of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. RSV may also affect the health of your baby: RSV may increase the risk of early labor, and babies who come into contact with RSV are more likely to have low birth weight.
There is a vaccine for RSV approved for pregnant people. When you become pregnant, ask your doctor if you’re eligible for the vaccine.
COVID-19: Pregnancy puts you at higher risk of severe outcomes of Covid-19. Contracting Covid during pregnancy may make you more likely to deliver early, or experience complications like stillbirth or pregnancy loss.
The Covid-19 vaccine is safe and recommended for pregnant people, and is not associated with any adverse pregnancy outcomes—get vaccinated at the direction of your doctor.
Flu: Like with Covid, pregnant people who get the flu are more susceptible to serious illness. Pregnant people who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor or preterm birth, and fever from the flu may be linked to birth defects.
If you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy, don’t worry: ACOG and the CDC recommend vaccination at any time during pregnancy, post-partum, and breastfeeding for both the flu shot and the Covid vaccine.
What effect can these viruses have on children?
Babies are more at risk for certain respiratory viruses. Since their immune systems are still developing and babies have small airways, it’s important to try and protect your infant from Covid, RSV, and the flu.
According to the March of Dimes, almost all children get RSV by the time they’re 2 years old—and cases are usually mild. Premature infants are at higher risk for more serious illness with RSV. RSV is the primary cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in babies younger than one, and can cause babies’ airways to be blocked.
If your baby has signs of dehydration like a dry mouth or infrequent urination, a fever that lasts more than 3 days or is above 104 degrees, or is unusually fussy, visit your pediatrician or the ER. In instances where the baby is having difficulty breathing, call 911.
How can I protect myself and my child from these viruses?
To protect against Covid and the flu, there are vaccines available and approved for everyone older than 6 months. Both you and your child should get vaccinated to prevent the spread of illnesses.
In September 2023, the CDC recommended the first RSV vaccine for pregnant people to protect their infants from severe RSV.
In general, during the winter months, take extra precautions for you and your baby’s health: wash your hands frequently, limit contact with people who you know are sick, and wear a mask in public places.
Looking for more information on keeping yourself and your baby healthy during and after pregnancy? Delfina’s got you covered.