This fall is shaping up to be a bad season for viruses. the the flu is spreading at a high rateCOVID-19 continues to kill more than 300 people on average every day and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is rising.
To further complicate matters, these viruses often look the same on those they infect, with similar symptoms including sneezing, coughing, fever, and more.
Not being able to know what illness you have makes these viruses even more dangerous. Certain diseases are more of a concern for some populations, and RSV in particular is dangerous for children (and is also more common in children).
There are ways to screen for RSV, including testing at your doctor’s office and also tests at home. By getting tested, you will know for sure if you have this virus, allowing you to better protect yourself and your loved ones. But the symptoms can also give some indication. Experts shared with HuffPost the most common symptoms of RSV in children, healthy adults, and immunocompromised adults. This is what you should know:
RSV is more common in children
“RSV is traditionally very frightening to young children under the age of 5, especially [those] less than 2”, he said Dr Purva Grover, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at the Cleveland Clinic. It is a virus that can affect your respiratory system and your ability to breathe.
However, what is different this year is that RSV is also showing up in children around 8 to 10 years old. And it’s proving to be dangerous for kids in this age group, which is something that hasn’t been seen before, Grover added.
For children, irritability and loss of appetite along with sinus problems and coughing are the main warning signs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children infected with RSV may have a runny nose, congestion, cough, fever, or lack of appetite. In infants, fussiness is a common symptom, along with decreased appetite. These symptoms won’t happen all at once, either: they will occur at different times throughout the illness.
RSV is very common in children, so common, in fact, that the CDC notes that “nearly all children will have had an RSV infection before their second birthday.”
Although many children get sick with RSV and do well, this is not the case for everyone. It becomes particularly concerning when children have difficulty breathing, such as when they are wheezing or short of breath, which is often when parents take them to the emergency room for treatment.
“Children come to the emergency room usually three or four days” after infection, Grover said. “The virus starts to peak, the viral load is at its highest at that point, and parents are bringing their children because of respiratory distress.”
Also, because children breathe so fast to try to take in an adequate amount of air, they often end up dehydrated when suffering from RSV.
“TThey’re having a hard time drinking and whatever they’re drinking is being metabolized very quickly” because of their hectic breathing, Grover said.
In immunocompromised adults, RSV symptoms can resemble the flu and have the potential to develop into pneumonia.
In adults, the most severe effects of RSV are often seen in immunocompromised people, he said. Dr. Cesar A. Ariaschief of the division of infectious diseases at Houston Methodist Hospital and co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
People who fall into this category are typically undergoing chemotherapy, receiving an organ or bone marrow transplant, or taking immunosuppressive drugs, Arias said.
In this situation, “the infection presents [with] flu-like symptoms, but it eventually progresses to pneumonia,” he said.
He added that the symptoms of pneumonia differ from person to person depending on the level of immunosuppression. “there can be many [coughing] to a more severe presentation where the respiratory status is affected”, which means that the infected person has difficulty breathing.
People who are at high risk of developing serious illness and notice these dangerous symptoms are the ones who go to the hospital for treatment, he noted.
He stressed that while you may not have cancer or be the recipient of an organ transplant, common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, advanced heart disease and COPD can still put you at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms. severe RSV.
“Even a mild infection can push you over the edge depending on your physiological reserve,” Arias said. If you have heart or lung problems, RSV may be difficult for your body to handle and could lead to heart attacks or other problems associated with the stress respiratory infections put on your body.
Many adults with RSV will experience mild symptoms that mimic a sinus infection or cold.
If you’re an adult with a healthy immune system, you probably don’t have to worry too much about your own health if you get infected with RSV.
“We have not seen a worrying train of increased hospitalization due to RSV in [non-immunocompromised adult] populations,” Arias said. But that doesn’t mean that healthy adults don’t get sick and seek care from their primary care doctors.
For adults who are not immunocompromised, symptoms are generally mild and resemble a cold or sinusitis. RSV is an upper respiratory infection, so Grover says healthy adults can expect symptoms like a runny nose and congestion.
Adults should also watch for shortness of breath, chest pain and an inability to take a deep breath, which are also common signs of RSV, he said. Additionally, healthy adults can expect a low-grade fever, sore throat, and cough, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In general, adults with a healthy immune system can ‘fight off’ this virus, but that doesn’t stop transmission.
Adults who are not immunocompromised can “fight off” this virus due to their strong immune systems, so symptoms are likely to be fairly mild.
But, as COVID-19 made clear, “a cold for you might be fine, but [if spread]It could literally kill the little one and the old person,” Grover said. This is particularly the case for adults who may be the caregivers or loved ones of children or people with weakened immune systems.
Both Grover and Arias said to protect yourself and others, you should wear a mask in crowded spaces, stay home if you’re sick, practice good hand hygiene and make sure you’re up to date on your COVID-19 vaccination. . particularly with the new bivalent COVID-19 boosterand I have achieved your flu shot.
There is no vaccine for RSV, although there are vaccines currently in development.
Arias noted that getting tested if you have symptoms is also a good idea, as it can determine what type of virus you have and the best treatment plan. There is a three-in-one test that detects the flu, RSV, and COVID-19.
It pays to be cautious as three highly contagious and life-threatening viruses spread so rapidly. And in terms of RSV, “frankly, at this point I would consider everyone to be a carrier,” Grover said.