What is RSV?

Healthcare providers in our area are seeing more cases of RSV – respiratory syncytial virus - than usual this year.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But for infants as well as older adults and people with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems, RSV can cause serious lung infections.

The symptoms of RSV (which usually begin about 4 – 6 days after infection) include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

Very young infants (less than a year old) may only have symptoms like irritability, decreased activity, and trouble breathing.

Why is RSV So Dangerous for Babies?

For children under the age of 1, infection with the RSV virus can lead to inflammation of the small airways in the lung and even pneumonia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 58,000 children under 5 are hospitalized in the U.S. each year with RSV, and between 100 and 500 children die of RSV each year.

What Can I Do?

It’s important to take any possible symptoms of RSV seriously. Because RSV infection shares so many symptoms with colds, the flu, and even COVID-19, make an appointment to see your child’s healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms.

Your child’s provider will do a lab test to determine if they have been infected with the RSV virus. Though there isn’t a specific drug available for RSV, your child’s provider will advise you on how to control the symptoms to help them fight off the virus. He or she also will talk to you about signs that your child might need care at their office or the ER, including dehydration or labored breathing.

Prevention is the only way to stop the spread of the RSV virus and the viruses that cause the common cold, flu, and COVID-19. Though there is no RSV vaccination available for babies, you can help keep your child safe by making sure the people around them are up to date on all of their vaccinations.

And of course, beginning now (and all the way through cold and flu season), remember to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others if you are sick or they are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that you frequently touch.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Then throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.