As we continue through the fall and winter, we can expect to see more respiratory illness. This is an annual occurrence, but there are measures we can all can take to prevent illness and manage symptoms while at home.
“With the return to more in-person indoor activities and gatherings and the time of year where more respiratory viruses are circulating, it’s not unexpected to see more respiratory illness” says Dr. Aamir Bharmal, medical director for Public Health Response at the BC Centre for Disease Control. “We’re monitoring very closely and seeing the co-circulation of common seasonal respiratory viruses as well as COVID-19.”
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is circulating at a relatively stable level and most of the recent increase in respiratory infections has been due to seasonal viruses such as enterovirus/rhinovirus (ERV), influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The circulation of all of these viruses at the same time in the community is contributing to more illness.
“Due to the use of COVID-19 preventative measures, many British Columbians have not experienced seasonal respiratory illnesses in recent years,” says Dr. Bharmal. “The measures we’ve been using to prevent COVID-19 work for other respiratory illnesses too. If we take steps to prevent people from getting severely ill and keep them out of hospital, it helps keep people well and also reduces the pressure on our healthcare system.”
Take prevention measures to help limit the spread of respiratory illnesses:
- Get all recommended vaccines including influenza and COVID-19 boosters; getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious illness
- Stay at home if you feel unwell.
- Practice respiratory etiquette if you have symptoms:
- Wear a mask in indoor public spaces
- Cough and sneeze in your elbow
- Clean your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose.
- Stay away from people at higher risk of serious illness if you are sick.
Most healthy children will fight respiratory infections with rest and good hydration without needing to go to a hospital or see a doctor. Treatment including antibiotics are not needed for most respiratory infections and children will usually recover on their own at home within a few days.
Fever can make a child look unwell. Using children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help bring down the fever. If you are having trouble finding fever-reducing medication, the Public Health Agency of Canada provides information on what parents can do:
- Only buy what you need so others have access to the medications they need.
- Keep your child comfortable:
- Use cold compresses and have them drink plenty of fluids
- Luke warm baths
- Do not use adult fever and pain medications on children under 12 years of age without consulting a health care professional as there is a risk of serious harm and overdose.
- Speak to a pharmacist who can help choose the right alternate product and dose, or who may be able to prepare an appropriate and safe medication for your child.
- If you have any questions or concerns that your child may have taken or been given too much of a pain or fever-reducing medicine, please contact the
BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050.
Pay attention to your child’s symptoms and know when to seek care. If you are not sure whether your child needs emergency care, read the BC Children’s Hospital article:
is a respiratory disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Most people have been vaccinated or have had a COVID-19 infection in the past two years which helps protect from severe illness leading to hospitalization and death. Most people who get COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate illness and can manage their symptoms at home. Some people are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and there are treatments available to help prevent their symptoms from getting worse
and reduce the chances of needing hospital care.
ERVs are currently the second most commonly detected viruses in B.C. after COVID-19. B.C. health care professionals are monitoring the activity of these viruses carefully as a proportion of ERV cases detected are positive for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). While EV-D68 usually causes mild illness, it has been associated with severe infections in the past. Clinicians have been asked to be alert for EV-D68 this season.
The influenza virus, often called “the flu” is a highly changeable virus. A person with influenza is at risk of other infections, including viral or bacterial pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. Influenza virus can cause serious respiratory illness requiring hospitalization, which can place additional demand on our healthcare system.
RSV is one of the most common respiratory viruses and usually causes a mild illness, including a simple cold, or bronchiolitis in young infants. For most people, RSV goes away on its own and
is all that is needed. Babies younger than six months, especially those born early (prematurely), sometimes need treatment in a hospital.