Skip to Content Accessibility Information

Respiratory Illnesses

Many areas of the U.S. including Carroll County are seeing unusually high levels of respiratory viruses. Usually these viruses cause mild, cold-like symptoms. However, they can cause serious illness in some people, especially premature and young babies, older adults, and those with lung problems like asthma, heart problems, or immune system conditions. Pregnant women are also at higher risk from respiratory viruses.

Though the impact of RSV is starting to decrease, flu cases are increasing rapidly in Maryland, and COVID cases are also on the rise. Both the flu and COVID can cause serious illness and death, especially in vulnerable populations. Track trends here: Maryland RSV dashboard, Maryland flu dashboard (click links across top), Carroll County COVID-19 data, Maryland COVID-19 data

Protect yourself and your family:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Mask when you are symptomatic, exposed, or around people at higher-risk. Consider masking in crowded indoor spaces. (See Mask Mythbusters from the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, like doorknobs, counters, and bathroom surfaces.
  • Get enough physical activity and sleep, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food (food pantry list).
  • Get everyone in your family aged 6 months and up vaccinated against respiratory diseases like the flu and COVID-19.
  • Have a plan if someone in your family gets sick.


If you or someone in your family does gets sick:

  • The sick person should stay home, wear a mask if possible, and isolate from high-risk family members. People caring for a sick family member should also mask.
  • Monitor symptoms. Make sure they are drinking enough fluids and resting.
  • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Never give aspirin to children under the age of 16.
  • If caring for a child, talk to their healthcare provider before giving them any cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not safe for children, even over the counter and “all natural”  medicines. Honey is not safe for kids under the age of one.
  • Consider testing. Not every illness needs to be tested, but it can help with treatment and follow up and may be required to return to school or sports. The Health Department continues to provide COVID-19 tests to Carroll County Public Libraries for distribution.
  • If you have COVID-19 or the flu and you are at higher risk for serious illness, talk to your provider about treatments. Antivirals can help prevent serious illness but need to be taken early in the illness to be most effective.
  • Don’t return to school, childcare, or work until fever is gone for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and all other symptoms are improving.

Call your healthcare provider right away or seek emergency care if the sick child or adult:

  • Is having trouble breathing. Young babies may show this by bobbing their head, having a flared nose, or grunting.
  • Has a blue color to their skin, especially their lips or around their fingernails
  • Is having trouble staying awake or is lethargic
  • Has a high fever
  • Is not drinking enough fluids
  • Is not urinating regularly
  • If their symptoms are getting worse

Learn more about how to prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses.


More information by type of virus:

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms like cough, runny nose, and low-grade fever. It can also cause wheezing. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially in babies and children under 5 years old and in older adults. Severe infections can include bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) or pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and RSV can also make conditions like asthma worse.

How it spreads: RSV can be spread through coughs, sneezes, direct contact with the virus (like kissing the face of a child with RSV),and touching contaminated surfaces.

Treatment: While there’s no specific treatment for RSV infection, you can take over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Call your healthcare provider if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.

Prevention: If you are sick, stay home; keep other sick family members home as well and away from those at high risk for RSV. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and clean surfaces such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices.


Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. People 65 years and older, young children, pregnant people, and people with certain health conditions are at higher risk of developing serious complications from flu infection.

Flu hospitalizations are highest right now among adults 65 years and older and young children. CDC expects that flu viruses will continue to spread for weeks or even months.

How it spreads: Flu can spread to others if they breathe in droplets carrying virus from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu may also spread by people touching a contaminated surface or object that has flu virus on it, then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

Treatment: Flu can be treated with antiviral drugs your doctor can prescribe when illness is caught early.

Prevention: The first and most important action in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. There is still time to get vaccinated this season. In addition, take everyday preventive actions like staying home if you’re sick, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and cleaning surfaces such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices often.



COVID-19 is still circulating in communities and can still cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Rates of hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 decreased over the past few months, but have now leveled out. CDC continues to track and monitor COVID-19 community levels to determine the impact of COVID-19 on communities. People with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Everyone should prepare for potential increases through the fall and winter and take preventive action to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.

How it spreads: COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. Learn how COVID-19 spreads.

Treatment: If you test positive for COVID-19, treatments are available and should be taken early. 

Prevention: COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are effective at protecting people from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Everyone ages 6 months and older is recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine and those ages 5 years and older should receive an updated COVID-19 booster, when eligible.   

If you have tested positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, isolate by yourself if possible and stay home. Wear a high-quality mask, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often. Visit How to Protect Yourself and Others for other actions you can take to help keep others from getting sick.