SPRINGFIELD, MASS. (WHDH) - Hospitals in the United States and New England are seeing a spike in a serious respiratory infection in children.

Respiratory syncytial virus usually causes mild cold-like symptoms but it can lead to more serious problems in younger children. Most children are able to recover with at-home care. Doctors said people can protect their families by handwashing, sanitizing surfaces and limiting certain social activities.

“If there are large indoor gatherings that aren’t necessary or a child could potentially be around someone with cough or cold symptoms, it might be best to rethink those plans and keeping younger children home,” said Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, a pediatrician for Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

Experts said caregivers should contact their doctor if their child’s RSV symptoms don’t improve, or worsen, within a week or two.

The Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Mass., also reported last week that it’s seeing an “unprecedented spike in early cases of respiratory illness… resulting in capacity issues and long wait times.”

“So the first thing that parents could do is really call their pediatrician or their primary care provider to talk about those symptoms of fever, runny nose, cough, congestion,” Dr. Charlotte Boney, pediatrician-in-chief at Baystate Children’s Hospital, said in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio.

“And the second thing is to really call your primary care provider to give you some advice about how to help the symptoms now and how to gauge when your child is sick enough to come to the emergency room. Because right now, our emergency room is really full of people seeking care, but their child is not seriously ill. So it’s a long wait time. And we, of course, want to get to the kids that are seriously ill fast,” said Boney.

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