By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the holidays approach, doctors are warning parents to be on the lookout for a potentially life-threatening illness that’s not the flu or a cold.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 22 people in the metro area were hospitalized last week for RSV. That is nearly triple the number of cases that were reported three weeks ago.

The virus, which has similar symptoms to a cold, has been shown to spread around the holidays.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 57,000 children under the age of 5 years old are hospitalized every year for Respiratory Syncytial virus, or RSV, a common cause of pneumonia and inflammation of the small airways in the lungs.

Five-month-old Weston had common cold symptoms two weeks ago, but his mother noticed he was wheezing.

“He was really crabby, fussy, had a cough and cold going on,” Megan Williams of White Bear Lake said.

She brought him to urgent care where he got a confirmed RSV diagnosis and spent three days at Children’s Hospital on oxygen, with suctioning and around the clock monitoring.

“If we couldn’t have gotten him in, it could have been terrible. He could have been dehydrated, he could have stopped breathing,” she said.

The CDC tells parents to be on the lookout for common cold symptoms along with: irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite, apnea or pauses while breathing and sometimes fever.

There is no vaccine for RSV. Experts recommend seeking immediate medical attention if you think your child is showing symptoms of a severe RSV infection.

The Centers for Disease Control says older adults are also at risk of complications from RSV.

The best way to stop the virus from spreading is to make sure you’re washing your hands, covering your cough and cleaning any contaminated surfaces.

Kate Raddatz