Respiratory Syncytial Virus: The Signs and Symptoms of RSV

The Facts About Childhood Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

RSV, also known as respiratory syncytial virus, is a prevalent virus affecting the respiratory system. It is normal for children to catch RSV at least once before they turn 2 or 3 years old, and for most, the symptoms are mild. However, for some, especially infants and young children, the virus can cause severe respiratory infections that may require hospitalization. RSV is the leading reason for hospitalization in babies with respiratory conditions.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus: The Signs and Symptoms of RSV

Respiratory viruses are frequently found in children under the age of 5, especially those who attend daycare or are exposed to tobacco smoke. Although most cases are mild, some children may develop respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) from a common cold or flu, leading to severe symptoms and requiring emergency department treatment or hospitalization.

High-risk patients include:

• Premature infants
• Babies less than six months
• Children suffering from reactive airway diseases like asthma
• Anyone with heart, lung, or compromised immune systems

RSV is a virus that usually spreads during the winter and early spring. It starts as a regular cold with upper respiratory symptoms. However, it can quickly move down to the lower respiratory tract, causing inflammation and infection in the lungs and air tubes. RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis, which can be dangerous for infants and children with asthma as it causes increased airway obstruction and difficulty breathing. In addition, RSV infections in young children can increase their risk of developing asthma later in life, although the reason behind this is still not clear. It could be because RSV damages the lungs or because the factors that put children at risk of asthma also put them at risk of RSV. RSV and other viruses can also increase the risk of developing allergies and sensitization to allergens. It is worth noting that RSV is not just a concern for infants and young children but also for adults with weakened immune systems, such as those with asthma, COPD, cancer, immunodeficiency, or autoimmune diseases.

Symptoms of RSV

Reach out to your child’s physician if any of the following symptoms occur. These could be indications that your youngster has developed RSV:

• Cold and flu symptoms lasting for more than ten days
• Symptoms return after they seem to clear up
• Tugging at an ear or an earache
• Wheezing and loud breathing
• Nostrils enlarging with each breath; quick breathing; skin above or below the ribs sucking with heavy breaths; bluish coloration around lips, skin, or fingernails.
• Severe headaches near the eyes or the back of the neck
• Constant vomiting
• Dehydration

Available Treatments for Respiratory Syncytial Virus

There is currently no cure for RSV. Instead, healthcare professionals focus on treatments that help reduce congestion and open the airways so patients can breathe better. Some of these treatments may include over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers. It is paramount to confer with your doctor to decide which medication best suits your child and follow age-appropriate dosage instructions carefully.

At-home remedies include:

• Staying hydrated
• Nasal saline drops
• Using a bulb syringe for younger children
• Lukewarm bath

Prevention Advice

RSV vaccines for adults 60 years and older and an RSV monoclonal antibody treatment for infants and young children are expected to be available in fall 2023. Upcoming vaccines for pregnant women and other age groups have been announced, offering a promising development. To prevent RSV infection, we recommended healthy lifestyle changes. It is important to note that the virus can persist on hard surfaces such as doorknobs and tabletops for several days and may spread rapidly through human contact, often before the infected person exhibits any obvious signs of the disease.

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