We are still trying to understand how this combination will affect children, and whether they are more likely to be hospitalized or put on a ventilator. Regardless, both RSV and Covid can be dangerous and are causing overwhelming numbers of children to end up in the hospital. And while political leaders in states hardest hit by these viruses should be using all of the tools available to them to protect our children, some are actively fighting and banning the protective measures we have in order to score political points at the expense of our children’s health.
Both of these viruses are bringing children into the hospital, putting them on ventilators, and causing mortalities. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to compare them or debate which is worse — political leaders should be using all of the tools available to them for prevention.
Politicians like Abbott and DeSantis don’t know what they are talking about — not when it comes to public health or treatment of infectious disease in children. And when a child is sick with RSV or Covid, or both, no one is going to call them for help.
As a pediatric airway surgeon, I have seen many young children with RSV struggle to breathe. When medications, oxygen and respirator masks aren’t enough to relieve the heaving and gasping for air, I have to insert a breathing tube or perform surgery to open the airway.
I have also seen the full spectrum of Covid-19 in my own pediatric patients. I have seen infected children with mild or no symptoms in my office, and I have seen children with lingering symptoms months after contracting Covid-19. I have also treated — and lost — pediatric patients with this illness in the intensive care unit.
Children could be at higher risk for infection with both Covid and RSV as they return to school this year. While we wait for Covid-19 vaccines to be approved for kids younger than 12, political leaders must allow our school systems access to the essential protection of mask mandates. They must also facilitate strategies to help vaccinate every eligible person — instead of obstructing these efforts.
In the meantime, where elected officials fail to protect the health of our children, doctors, nurses and health care providers will stand, and we will care for you and your family. We just need misguided politicians like DeSantis and Abbott to get out of our way.