AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Inside Gina and Ryan Silkworth’s Aurora home, steam filled the downstairs bathroom Monday night. 

Ryan held his 2-year-old son Owen near the shower door, instructing him to take deep breaths in and out. Hours later, they would end up in the emergency department, after Owen’s oxygen levels started to drop.

The family is one of hundreds across metro Denver dealing with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

“He’s handling it pretty well compared to some, but it’s still pretty stressful,” Ryan said.

Owen was sent home early Tuesday morning, but the family remains concerned. Their second child is less than 2 weeks old, a potentially dangerous age should she catch RSV.

“Ryan and Owen have been downstairs, and I’ve been upstairs with the baby,” Gina said. “We were looking forward to bringing a baby home and bonding as a family, and introducing Owen to his little sister, and instead it’s just been separation, and that’s hard.”

94% of RSV cases are pediatric

Since the start of October, 195 people have been hospitalized with RSV in metro Denver, and 94% of those cases are pediatric patients.

“We really worry about the young babies,” said Dr. Kevin Messacar with Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Young infants have difficulty sucking, swallowing and breathing at the same time anyway, and so you throw in a respiratory virus that clogs their nasal passageways, makes it difficult for them to breath, and they’re very apt to need support.”

Messacar and Children’s Hospital Colorado declined to say how many RSV patients they’re currently treating, but they did say staffing levels are what would typically be seen over the winter when respiratory viruses typically peak.

“It’s the most common reason that children get hospitalized, and it tends to come in the winter. This year’s been a bit different because it’s come early,” Messacar said. “It’s a few months earlier than it typically shows up, and it’s kept us really busy over the last few weeks.”

The Silkworths say their son wasn’t in daycare or around friends recently, so they aren’t sure where he caught it from.

“I think it just goes to show how this virus must be everywhere right now,” Gina said.

Doctors recommend keeping sick children home and out of daycare and school until the case numbers subside. They say it’s also important to get your flu shot to ensure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed when flu season arrives.