Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What COVID-19 Y the flu being the priority for many, another infectious disease is causing panic, especially among parents: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While RSV is common, with many cases often mimicking the common cold, it can, in more serious incidents, cause breathing problems and even pneumonia.

While anyone can get RSV, children are especially vulnerable because it is highly contagious and can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. This is one of the reasons why RSV spreads rapidly in schools and daycare centers.

Each year, about 2.1 million children under the age of five are diagnosed with RSV, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with an additional 58,000 to 80,000 children needing to be hospitalized with the virus. Right now, however, the CDC reports that the average hospitalization for RSV is 9 out of 100,000 people, a big increase so early in the season.

To help parents around the world better understand RSV, in this article you will learn: what RSV is; who is at risk of contracting RSV; why RSV is increasing this year; what are the symptoms of RSV; how RSV is treated; and how to prevent RSV.

What is SVR?

RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus, which infects the lungs and airways, according to Mayo Clinic. It enters the body through the nose, mouth, or eyes, when a person breathes in respiratory droplets from an infected person or touches a surface that is contaminated with those droplets and then touches their mucous membranes. An infected person is most contagious during the first week of being sick, but RSV can sometimes be spread for up to a month after symptoms go away.

Who is at risk of contracting RSV?

Anyone can get the disease. “RSV is very common,” he says. Dr. Kristin L. Moffittassociate physician in pediatrics Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “We’re all probably exposed to RSV a couple of times a year, and most kids have had the virus by the time they’re two years old.”

Certain people, however, are in increased risk of complications of RSV, including:

  • premature babies, as their lungs have not fully developed
  • babies under 6 months
  • people with heart or lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • people who have had an organ transplant or who are receiving chemotherapy

Why is RSV increasing this year?

RSV is going to make a big impact this fall and winter, says Czer Anthony Lim, MD, MSdirector of pediatric emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, and associate professor of emergency medicine, pediatrics, and medical education at Icahn School of Medicine. “They were already [in the fall] looking at the number of RSV patients that we would normally see in January,” says Dr. Lim.

The relaxation of COVID-19 prevention measures is believed to be one of the main reasons for the uptick. “RSV itself hasn’t changed in terms of severity,” says Dr. Moffitt. “What is likely to happen with the current surge is that we have basically missed two entire virus seasons due to COVID-19 masking and quarantining. Therefore, children’s immune systems are more susceptible to getting sick from RSV because they haven’t been exposed to the viruses as they normally would be.”

What are the symptoms of RSV?

According to Cleveland Clinic, Symptoms of RSV in babies include:

  • Cough
  • sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • pauses in breathing

In older children, symptoms of RSV include:

  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

“In adults, symptoms tend to include a sore throat or a hoarse voice,” says Dr. Lim.

How is RSV treated?

If your child has symptoms of RSV, give him a COVID-19 test right away because it can be hard to tell the symptoms of RSV from those of COVID-19, a cold, or the flu. Repeat the test one day later to confirm the results.

However, if RSV is the culprit, your doctor will not prescribe any medication. “Currently, there is no antibiotic or antiviral drug that can treat RSV,” says Dr. Lim. “We focus on supportive treatment, which means you can give your child Tylenol or Motrin at home, for the most part.”

You also want to focus on clearing your child’s congestion. “RSV can cause a lot of nasal drainage; you’ll see a lot of clear fluid coming out of your child’s nose,” says Dr. Moffitt. “A cool mist humidifier It can be very useful in your child’s room near the bed or crib. Also, you can use bulb suction, those little devices you can buy at the drugstore. They are really helpful in removing secretions from your child’s nose before feeding. When her son can’t breathe through his nose, she also can’t breathe through her mouth and eat at the same time.”

What are the danger signs that RSV is serious?

“You should call your pediatrician if your child is breathing fast,” says Dr. Lim. “Look to see if your child is using their belly to breathe – you will see the muscles of the ribs or the muscles of the neck moving up and down, and the head moving as they breathe. That’s a warning sign because these muscles get tired and the risk is that your child won’t be able to breathe on their own.” If your child is having trouble breathing, call 911 right away. If you notice that he is breathing hard or his lips or fingernails are turning bluish, that could mean RSV has progressed to pneumonia either bronchiolitis. Then call your doctor, too, or take your child to the emergency room.

Also, watch for signs of dehydration. “Your baby should have 4 to 5 wet diapers in an eight-hour period,” says Dr. Moffitt. “Less than that could indicate a problem. Another sign is if your child cries but does not produce tears. Also look in your child’s mouth: it should look moist. If it appears dry or chalky, it could be a symptom of dehydration, so call your doctor.” Other signs to watch out for in a baby: difficulty waking up or lack of desire to eat.

How to prevent RSV:

“Most likely, if your child gets RSV this year, next year it will be a milder case if he gets it again,” says Dr. Lim. Still, it’s important to try to prevent RSV infection for your child now if he can.

Common sense strategies that your family is already familiar with can be very helpful. “Masking during play dates can still be very helpful,” says Dr. Lim. He may also want your child to continue wearing a face covering at school. Prevent sick people from visiting your home; wash your hands often and make sure your children do too; and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, toys, and doorknobs.

Bottom line:

In most cases, children recover from RSV within two weeks. Don’t panic – comfort your child through her symptoms and contact her healthcare provider with any questions you have.

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