HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – The state’s two children’s hospitals are overflowing with patients suffering from respiratory illnesses in what has become a national health crisis. Infectious disease doctors are concerned about the trend.

For the last few weeks, Connecticut Children’s Hospital in Hartford has been over capacity as more and more young children are admitted for the respiratory illness, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). They are now in talks with the National Guard and FEMA about setting up a tent outside the hospital to help combat what’s become a national health crisis.

“We just don’t have as many critical care beds as we have adult critical care beds simply because we don’t usually need them,” said Dr. Juan Salazar, Physician in Chief, of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Connecticut Children’s is completely slammed with patients suffering from RSV. Salazar says it’s been this way since early September and cases continue to increase exponentially, which is something he’s never seen before at the hospital.

“Our hospital was full,” Salazar said. “Our traditional pediatric in-patient beds, we have three floors with 25 beds in each location, we can expand to 28. All of those were full this morning.”

For most kids, RSV usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, congestion, and a mild fever. Salazar says it can be much worse for children that are immunocompromised or have a heart defect.

At Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, RSV cases in the emergency department nearly doubled in the last week, going from 57 to 106. Thirty children are admitted to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital for RSV each day. In contrast, they only see one to three children per day in the emergency department with COVID.

“Why so much in September and October, we don’t know,” Salazar said. “We have theories. Herd immunity, immune suppression, and everyone getting it at the same time, it’s the perfect storm at our emergency departments.”

According to healthcare officials, parents should look out for a change in breathing in their children. Signs of RSV include:

  • Fast or short breaths
  • Grunting noises
  • Chest caving in with each breath
  • Skin turning blue or purple due to lack of oxygen. On darker skin, look for changes to lips, tongue, gums, and around the eyes

There is no vaccine for RSV, but Salazar encourages parents concerned about their child to ask their pediatrician about immunoglobulin therapy. For mild RSV cases, recovery is typically a few days.

With the hospital already at its max capacity, influenza could really put them over the edge if families don’t get vaccinated.

“Don’t wait, please,” Salazar said. “Get children vaccinated for flu. It’s something you need to do, it’s very important for their family and you help children’s hospitals lower the number of kids coming in.”

Salazar said they already have two children hospitalized with the flu, which he says is very unusual for October.

He expects flu cases will increase significantly in the coming weeks and over the holidays, which is why he is stressing parents get their children vaccinated.