KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Experts at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital say they’re seeing a rise in RSV cases compared to this time last year, and they’re not alone. 

The same problem is being reported across the nation. Pediatric hospitals are seeing a surge in RSV cases that can cause severe breathing problems for babies.

Experts say they usually see these types of respiratory illnesses in the winter months but right now, children’s hospitals across the country are filled with kids with RSV and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.

“It is true that we are very busy,” said Dr. Joe Childs with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. “I think Tennessee has been hit just as hard with RSV as most any other state.”

It stands for respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of mild cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever. Nearly all U.S. children normally catch an RSV infection by age 2.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV can cause mild cold-like symptoms for most adults but in severe cases and especially in children, the virus can cause serious complications.

“Their airways are smaller, so inflammation and extra mucus make it harder for them to breathe.” Dr. Childs said. “Especially in the first few months of life, it can be very nasty.”

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen an early peek in the virus this year.

“Here it was very typically a winter virus. Last year it was a summer virus,” Childs said. “This year’s it’s kind of an early fall, mid-fall virus.” 

“We’ve had quite a number of children who have had to be admitted to the hospital to be observed while they were recovering from this virus,” he said.

According to Dr. Childs, there’s not one specific treatment for RSV. “The biggest prevention of this is to avoid opportunities to be exposed to it,” he said.

He said to avoid crowded situations, wash your hands, and constantly clean commonly touched surfaces.

Childs warns, “it’s a pretty contagious virus. It can live on surfaces; it can go through the air.”

He said what can seem like a common cold for adults could be something more serious if passed on to a child and now one is immune to the virus,

“All of us can get it, adults and kids. And just because you’ve had it in the past doesn’t mean you can’t get it the following year.”

Doctor Childs adds that if their child is sick, parents should look for discoloration in the face, pause, or delayed breathing.

These are all signs of taking your child to the emergency room.

Nationally, health experts expect things to get worse as the school year proceeds and winter approaches.