The COVID-19 outbreak still causes headaches across the globe, but many believe the worst is over. Is that really the case?

Suddenly, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) around the world are filled with children suffering from breathing problems. How did this happen? The RS virus is to blame. But isn’t the RS virus usually prevalent in the winter? Normally, yes. But these aren’t normal times.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a very common, contagious virus that causes respiratory tract infections. During the cold winter months, infection rates are typically higher, causing bronchiolitis in infants, common colds in adults, and more serious respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia among the elderly and immunocompromised. Today, we are seeing an alarmingly high number of young children in ICUs who have contracted RSV. Mind you, especially in parts of the world where it is summer right now, not winter.

What’s going on? And what can we do to protect our children (and others) from RSV?

Children normally attend school together, play together and socialize a lot in groups. All of these activities expose them to RSV in a mild way. As a result, their immune system is boosted and they are better protected during the winter. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, lockdowns have been observed all over the world. Children are thus prevented from playing with other children a lot and being exposed to modest amounts of RSV. Due to this, their immune systems have not received their yearly boost. This shows us how important these regular boosts are. Many children suffer from respiratory problems. In layman’s terms, they have been infected by the RS virus and are having trouble breathing.

Checking a child’s temperature is probably the best way to determine if they have attracted RSV. An RSV infection almost always results in a rise in body temperature. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us how important it is to regularly check our body temperature and the body temperatures of our family members. Fever is an early warning that an individual – whether child or adult – has been infected with a virus. Checking our temperature twice a day is the best way to do this. By taking our temperature in the early morning and again in the evening, we are not only monitoring our body temperature but also taking into account our circadian cycle. Due to this cycle, our body temperature is lower in the morning compared to the evening. The difference of 0,9 oC can be quite noticeable. This is a perfectly normal cycle, but by checking our temperature at least twice daily, we can determine if a normal temperature in the morning has become an elevated temperature or even a fever in the evening. 

Since we are experiencing two healthcare crises at once – COVID-19 and RSV – checking for fever is more important than ever. If a child or an adult is infected with a virus – whether it is RSV or COVID-19 – we want to find out immediately. As soon as possible, the infected person needs to see a doctor. Thus maximizing their chances on a quick recovery. 

How can I check my body temperature without the use of the thermometer becoming irritating, painful or even damaging? Many families still use rectal or in-ear thermometers frequently, which are uncomfortable (rectal) or even painful and potentially damaging to the ear canal (in-ear thermometers). Furthermore, infrared guns have been scientifically proven to be unreliable and, to be honest, unsuitable for medical applications.

We should probably use a relatively new type of thermometer called temporal artery thermometers. These thermometers measure the temperature of the blood in the temporal artery which lies just 2 millimeter below the skin on the forehead. You can take a very accurate and comfortable reading by gently swiping the thermometer across the forehead. Furthermore, since we do not need to reposition the individual whose body temperature we want to measure, we can even do it while they are asleep. Our body temperature is an extremely important number. It tells us – and more importantly, doctors and nurses – a lot about our health. In these times of COVID-19 and RSV, checking for fever at least twice a day is of utmost importance. It could mean the difference between hospitalization and staying healthy – for ourselves and our children.