The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a serious respiratory infection that can affect people of all ages. Recently, many children’s hospitals across the country experienced an increase of pediatric patients hospitalized with the RSV, in addition to influenza. In most cases, RSV may only cause symptoms like difficulty breathing, lethargy, and cough, but it is most serious when it occurs in babies.
What Causes RSV?
RSV is spread from person to person via close contact with an infected person via secretions from coughing or sneezing, or touching objects like toys or door knobs that have the virus on them. According to health experts, it takes between two to eight days from the time of exposure for someone to become sick. In most cases, symptoms last for three to seven days, during which time the infected patients are most contagious. Because it can spread so easily, health experts encourage you to isolate and limit contact with other people. The peak season for the RSV is between fall and spring.
Symptoms Of RSV
People who become infected with RSV usually show symptoms within two to eight days after exposure. The most common symptoms of RSV include:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
These symptoms tend to appear in stages and not all at once. Very young infants who contract RSV may only experience decreased activity, irritability, and breathing difficulties. Surveys confirm that almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday.
RSV Can Cause Serious Health Problems
In more serious cases, RSV can cause serious infections like bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the small airways in the lung. RSV can also lead to pneumonia, a lung infection. Health experts say that RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one.
Healthy adults and children don’t usually require hospitalization. Some people with an RSV infection, especially infants under the age of six months and older adults, may require hospitalization if they have trouble breathing. In the most severe cases, a patient may require oxygen or IV fluids, if they have difficulty breathing or become dehydrated. Some patients with RSV have been in need of intubation with mechanical ventilation. In most of those cases, hospitalization only lasted a few days.
Take Additional Steps To Prevent RSV Infection
The best way to protect yourself from RSV infection is to keep the body as healthy as possible. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, wash hands, and consider the following tips when trying to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Avoid kissing your baby on the face if you have cold symptoms. Additionally, keep your baby away from older siblings, relatives, or anyone else with cold symptoms.
- Wash toys and the baby’s environment regularly.
- Ask people to first wash their hands before holding or touching your baby. And you do the same if you want to hold a friend’s baby.
- Limit the time that high-risk children or babies remain in daycare or play settings, especially between late fall and early spring.
- Keep your baby away from high-risk settings, for example, crowded indoor spaces.
- Avoid environments with smoke.
As a final note, it is common for babies to make a full recovery from RSV within one to two weeks. Most babies recover from RSV without receiving treatment in a hospital setting. More often than not, you can treat symptoms at home. You can use a cool mist humidifier to introduce moisture to the air to aid breathing, or use a bulb syringe to clear thick secretions from your baby’s nose. If you think your baby has dehydration or is in moderate to severe distress because of RSV infection, you should seek medical care.