It can feel overwhelming trying to keep track of illnesses these days, and it can be even scarier when you’re a parent. One specific area of concern lies with RSV.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases are surging, and they struck earlier than expected this season. As a result, hospitalization rates among Americans are already twice as high as last year — and almost five times as high as 2019-2020.
Worse yet, this specific illness can lead to bronchiolitis and ammonia in young children and even become life-threatening in babies and young infants under six months of age. But we’re here to help.
Our team at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, offers comprehensive pediatric care for children of all ages. Whether your child needs expert health care for sports physicals, vaccines, sick visits, or for their first newborn visit, we can address all of their needs.
If you have a child, here’s what you need to know about RSV this season.
Recognizing the signs of RSV
The thing that can get confusing about respiratory infections, such as RSV, influenza, colds, and COVID-19, involves their shared symptoms. Specifically, they all usually cause a cough, runny or stuffy nose, and fever. However, some characteristics set RSV apart from the rest.
First, RSV symptoms typically seem mild, then they escalate suddenly. Common signs of RSV include:
- Trouble breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Reduced appetite
It’s also very uncommon for RSV to cause headaches, body aches, or digestive symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea.
The dangers of RSV
RSV produces extra secretions in the airway, which is what makes it so dangerous for infants. Older children and adults can typically expel these fluids by coughing or sneezing. However, babies usually lack the muscle strength to cough up this extra fluid. As fluid continues building up in a baby’s airways, it can interfere with their ability to breathe.
Signs of a breathing issue in an infant might include:
- Putting more effort into each breath
- Appearing to breathe faster
- Tightening of skin around the neck or rib cage
- Flaring nostrils
If you notice these symptoms in your baby, seek help immediately. In fact, they may need their airways suctioned or additional oxygen to help them breathe.
At the moment, there isn’t a medication that can cure RSV. Instead, the goal is to ease symptoms. Treatment could include:
- Relieving nasal congestion with suction or sitting in a steamy bathroom
- Keeping babies well-hydrated
- Supporting breathing with oxygen, if needed
Depending on the severity of your baby’s symptoms, these treatments can occur at home or by a medical expert.
When you have RSV, you’re usually contagious for 3-8 days, and it can start before you exhibit any symptoms. However, some infants can continue spreading the virus for as long as four weeks.
Like other respiratory infections, RSV gets transmitted through droplets of infected people that enter your body through your mouth, eyes, or nose. Droplets can spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes, by direct contact — such as through kissing — and by touching infected surfaces. For children and infants, exposure usually occurs in schools or childcare centers. Then, they bring the virus home and transmit it to other family members.
The best way to prevent contracting RSV is to engage in frequent hand washing. If you have children who are in school or who play outside the home, have them wash their hands and change their clothes before interacting with an infant. This can reduce the baby’s exposure to viruses.
If you have a high-risk baby — such as one with a chronic lung disease, a significant congenital heart defect, or who was born premature — we could recommend a preventive series of vaccine antibody treatments to offer an additional layer of protection.
There are many viruses out there, so unfortunately, your baby will likely get sick at some point despite your best efforts. But we can help you both get through these childhood illnesses as comfortably as possible.
If your child isn’t feeling well or shows signs of RSV, call 410-504-6406 or book an appointment online with Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center today.