Avoiding and Treating RSV

By Weslie Cooley, PNP-PC

The winter season brings many wonders, but with it comes RSV season.  Although Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, can show as just a common cold in adults and older children, it can be dangerous for newborns, babies and some toddlers. Parents would do best to avoid this illness if you have young children.  

According to recent figures, respiratory infection rates remain high throughout the winter, with RSV being one of the most dangerous for children under the age of 3.

What is RSV?

The virus, first isolated and discovered in 1956, and is the leading cause of lower-tract respiratory illnesses each year.  It is transmitted through respiratory droplets in the cough or fluids from an infected person.  Or it can be caught by touching a surface with the virus on it, transferred by hands to mouth.  People infected with the virus will usually show symptoms within 4-6 days. 

Symptoms usually come on in stages and do not appear all at once: runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing.  In very young infants they may show just increased irritability, lack of appetite and wheezing.  

Care for RSV

Most children will get an RSV infection before their 2nd birthday.  When your child does get it, support their recovery by ensuring they are drinking enough liquids, resting and reducing their fever with medication if they are uncomfortable.

In some people the virus will lead to more serious complications that could require hospitalization for support through recovery.  These complications are dehydration, difficulty breathing, and/or bronchitis or pneumonia.    

Prevention of RSV

Daycares and schools are a common place for RSV during the winter months.  Regular hand washing, surface disinfection and correct covering of coughs and sneezes can reduce the transmission.  If you have a young infant, take precautions to protect them from potentially coming into contact with RSV.  

During the winter months,  avoid close contact with others, such as kissing, or holding hands.  Relatives and friends always seem to want to touch a baby’s face or hands.  Be brave and let them know you are trying to keep them healthy.  Blankets, wraps or hand mittens can also help to keep them from being touched if the most well-intentioned people can’t keep their hands off the baby.  

Talk to your Thrive Pediatrics provider about the RSV vaccinations that are available for infants and vulnerable persons.  There are several options, of which are an antibody immunization vaccine, meaning the shot gives the baby a boost of antibodies to fight off an infection and is 80% effective.