(Mass Appeal) – Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. Louise Cardellina, a Physician’s Assistant with American Family Care joins us with more information.
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States. It is also a significant cause of respiratory illness in older adults.
Although this common virus spreads from fall to spring, right now — from late December to mid-February — is peak RSV season.
Symptoms of RSV infection usually include: Runny nose; Decrease in appetite; Coughing; Sneezing; Fever; Wheezing
These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.
RSV can get serious very quickly. Call your child’s doctor if your baby: Has a cold and is less than 6 months of age. Has any breathing problems (wheezing or coughing, fast breathing, blue or gray skin color)
RSV can also cause more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age.
Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. You can manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines, since some medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
Healthy infants and adults infected with RSV do not usually need to be hospitalized. But some people with RSV infection, especially infants younger than 6 months of age and older adults, may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated. In most of these cases, hospitalization only lasts a few days. In the most severe cases, a person may require additional oxygen or intubation (have a breathing tube inserted through the mouth and down to the airway) with mechanical ventilation (a machine to help a person breathe).
There is no specific treatment for RSV infection. Because it is viral, antibiotics do not help.