RSV vs. Flu: Diagnosing Your Child’s Fever and Cough

RSV vs. Flu: Diagnosing Your Child’s Fever and Cough

As a parent, you worry when your child is sick. You hate to see your loved one with a fever, cough, and other symptoms. Your first thought may be that it’s Covid. However, winter might as well be named “virus season.” Other viruses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus (flu), cause many of the same symptoms. Is there a way to tell the difference? 

The caring team at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center understands your worry about your child’s illness. We leave room in our schedule for same-day sick visits. 

When we examine your child, we perform a number of tests. We provide on-site lab tests for Covid-19, RSV, and the flu, which makes treatment very efficient. 

Following is a brief guide to help you differentiate between RSV and the flu. 

What is RSV? 

You’ve probably heard about RSV on the news. Reporters show which states have an elevated number of cases of RSV, the flu, and Covid. 

RSV is a fairly common respiratory virus. Some RSV symptoms are the same as for the flu: fever, cough, sneezing, nasal congestion, wheezing, feeling tired, and poor appetite. It can be a mild virus in many children.

However, if you have an infant, they have an increased risk of more serious illness from RSV. About 2-3% of infants may need hospitalization because the virus can morph into bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the lungs, or pneumonia, which is a serious lung infection. 

If your little one has a high fever, and you also see shortness of breath, with their chest caving in with each breath, call us so we can schedule a sick visit immediately.

If you have an infant who is premature or immunocompromised, you want to take extra precautions to keep them healthy during winter months. Bring them in for an RSV-preventive antibody shot that can help guard against RSV morphing into bronchitis or pneumonia. 

RSV symptoms are at their height during the first week. The virus may last up to two weeks

How is the flu different from RSV?

Whereas many cases of RSV are mild and mimic the common cold, the flu’s symptoms make your child miserable. This respiratory virus also causes fever and a cough, but is characterized by some other symptoms that help differentiate it from other viruses: 

If your child develops the flu, they can go from feeling fine and playing as normal to feeling very sick in a matter of hours. 

It usually takes less than a week for children to recover from the flu. However, some cases of the flu can turn into pneumonia. Call our office for a same-day sick visit for your child if they have a fever and are weak and listless. 

You can take steps to help prevent serious illness in your child. Make sure they receive a flu shot early every year before flu season starts in earnest. Teach them the importance of hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes. 

Get prompt treatment for your child 

When your child is sick, you wonder whether you should bring them in for an appointment or let them rest. After all, they could be feeling better tomorrow. 

It’s never a wrong decision to bring your child in to be checked for respiratory illness symptoms. We can quickly see if their symptoms are due to RSV, the flu, or COVID-19 and provide you with instructions on how to care for them and monitor their symptoms at home. 

We also let you know symptoms to watch for in case your child’s illness takes a turn for the worse. In that case, call us right away and we’ll fit them  in for an appointment. 

Call Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland if your child is sick, or book an appointment online if it’s not an urgent matter. We’re here to help your little one thrive.

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