Health Buzz: RSV

This time of year you might hear the letters "RSV" thrown around a lot. RSV stands for "respiratory syncytial virus", which is a respiratory illness that is common in young children and toddlers. RSV infections are most common from late fall through early spring. Almost all kids are infected with RSV at least once by the time they are 2 years old.

This one hits close to home since Keegan had RSV when he was around 5 months old. I had to switch pediatricians before it was diagnosed properly. What I learned was that RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in all children. RSV may even be a cause of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life! Parents with children who have autoimmune deficiencies must be even more careful about the health of their child, since RSV can even cause death. So, this virus is not something to be taken lightly!

This virus is spread through coughing, sneezing, contaminated surfaces and touch. RSV is highly contagious! It can be diagnosed through nasal secretions.

An adult who catches RSV will have the same symptoms as the common cold. But an otherwise healthy child may get a respiratory illness from RSV, like bronchiolitis, pneumonia or croup. Call the doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
  • High fever
  • Thick nasal discharge that is yellow, green or gray
  • Cough that is accompanied by yellow, green or gray mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Dehydration in Toddler or Baby
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Lethargic
  • Blue tinge to lips or fingernails
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Nasal Flaring
You can reduce your child's exposure to RSV through frequent handwashing and cleaning public surfaces your child comes into contact with - like a restaurant table at McDonalds! Insist that EVERYONE wash their hands before touching (and kissing) your baby. Avoid exposing your baby to people who have colds and fevers. Do not expose your baby to tobacco smoke, either. And finally, avoid crowds during RSV epidemics.

At-risk children can be given a monthly injection of a medication consisting of RSV antibodies during peak RSV season.

Most cases of RSV are mild enough that no treatment is needed. You simply need to ensure the comfort of your child and make sure your baby or toddler is taking in enough fluids. Antibiotics are only for bacteria, so it won't work against a virus. But medications are available to help your child breath easier. A cool-mist vaporizer may also help your child breathe easier, since it keeps airways moist and thus easier to breathe! For little ones too young to blow their nose, you may want to use a bulb syringe to remove mucus. Fever can be treated with acetaminophen.

It took months for Keegan to get better, so definitely prevention is key!

Stay healthy and happy buzzing!
Kids Health For Parents
Diagnosing RSV