How You Can Take Precaution During RSV Season
January 24, 2019
Winter is here, which also means respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season. Whether you are an expectant parent for the first time or already have young children at home, you should be aware of the symptoms of RSV and how to protect against it.
What is RSV?
RSV is one of many viruses that cause respiratory illness which affects the nose, throat and lungs. Nearly all children will get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old. The cold-like illness is responsible for an estimated 57,000 hospitalizations for children under the age of 5 each year. It most often occurs from late fall through early spring and can be hard to distinguish from other respiratory viruses. However, RSV can be dangerous for some infants and young children.
Severe RSV may be followed by bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
Who is at risk?
Infants and children with a higher risk for severe RSV include:
- Premature infants
- Very young infants, especially those younger than 6 months
- Children under age 2 with chronic lung disease
- Children under age 2 with chronic heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus.
- Infants or young children in group childcare settings
What are the symptoms?
The early symptoms of RSV may include a mild runny nose, a decrease in appetite or a cough that may progress to wheezing. These symptoms are difficult to distinguish from the average cold symptoms, but as the virus progresses other symptoms may include:
- Short periods without breathing (apnea)
- Difficulty eating, drinking or swallowing
- Flaring of the nostrils
- Straining of the chest or stomach while breathing
- Bluish lips and/or fingertips
RSV is contagious and spreads just a like a common-cold virus through direct person-to-person contact, unclean hands and unclean objects or surfaces.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. However, some infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for as long as four weeks?even if they are not showing symptoms.
How is it treated?
Treatment for RSV is dependent upon your child’s symptoms, age, age and general health. Because it is a viral infection, not a bacterial, medications like antibiotics and steroids are ineffective. Symptoms will generally resolve in an average of 5-7 days. Until they pass you can help keep your child comfortable with plenty of fluids, a cool-mist humidifier, nasal saline, and if older than 6 months, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen to help with low-grade fever.
Roughly three out of every 100 children with RSV will require hospitalization. Oxygen, intubation and/or mechanical ventilation may be used to help with breathing. Other treatment may include:
- Intravenous (IV) fluids
- Suctioning of mucus
- Bronchodilator medication
- Tube feeding
How you can help protect against it?
First and foremost, the most effective action you can take to help protect your infant or child from contracting RSV is to wash your hands properly and often. Other things that can help include:
- Vaccination: There currently isn’t a vaccine for RSV, however, keeping your children up to date on all other recommendation immunizations including the flu shot can help protect against other illnesses that could lead to a weakened immune system.
- Limit exposure to large crowds, other children and anyone with colds.
- Disinfect objects and surfaces throughout your home regularly, but especially during cold, flu and RSV season. Also, avoid exposing your child to cigarette (or other tobacco) smoke.
- Breastmilk: If you are able to breastfeed, your breastmilk has unique antibodies that can help prevent and fight infections. Of course, fed is best so you should choose whatever feeding method works best for the health of both you and or your child.
How Holly Springs Pediatrics Can Help
We know that it can be difficult to determine when a visit to the pediatrician is necessary for a sick child, it is important to trust your instincts. When it comes to the health of your child, it is always best to err on the side of caution. We much rather you bring your child in for an evaluation and they end up being healthy, than the alternative.