RSV is the second most common reason patients are treated at Dayton Children's
01-12-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
In the winter of 2000, Natalie Driscoll of Bellbrook had no idea what respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was when her one month old son began having breathing problems.
“He would gasp for air and breathe really fast and heavy,” says Driscoll. “It was like he was having an asthma attack and you could hear him wheezing. It was extremely scary.”
RSV is the second most common reason patients are treated at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton, and as the weather continues to get colder, parents need to be on the lookout for it as a possible infection in their children. Dayton Children’s has already begun seeing and treating patients with RSV this winter season.
“RSV frequently begins with a fever, runny nose, cough and wheezing. Many times it worsens to symptoms of heavy coughing, rapid breathing and wheezing,” says Sherman Alter, MD, director of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s. “It is especially important for parents of children with other risk factors to be on the lookout for RSV symptoms.”
Children who are at a higher risk include:
- Children who were born prematurely
- Children with congenital heart disease
- Babies with lung disease
- Children with abnormalities of the immune system
Almost all children get RSV at least once as an infant. If a child has had RSV once, they can catch it again, but the symptoms will probably be milder than before. According to Dr. Alter, adults can catch RSV, but the symptoms only resemble a common cold.
RSV can also cause repeated infections usually associated with moderate-to-severe cold-like symptoms; however, severe lower respiratory tract disease may occur at any age, especially among the elderly or among those with compromised cardiac, pulmonary or immune systems.
During their first RSV infection, between 25 percent and 40 percent of infants and young children have signs or symptoms of bronchiolitis or pneumonia, and some will even need to go to a hospital with a majority of those being less than six months of age. RSV generally is a more serious problem for a child younger than 2; however, most children recover from illness in eight to 15 days.
“My son was at Dayton Children’s with RSV for over two weeks during which time the doctors gave him breathing treatments, spinal taps, x-rays and IVs,” says Driscoll.
Many times if a young infant comes to Dayton Children’s with RSV they will have to spend time in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
“If an infant is in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and tests positive for RSV they have to be transferred to the PICU,” says Patricia Abboud, MD, critical care. “It can be extremely contagious and dangerous for the other infants so we want to make sure to isolate the child and bring them back to good health as quickly as possible.”
There are many things that can be done to help prevent RSV. Dr. Alter and The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the following tips:
- Wash hands thoroughly.
- Keep your baby away from anyone who has a cold, fever or runny nose.
- Keep your baby away from crowded areas like shopping malls.
- Keep your baby away from tobacco smoke. Parents should not expose their infants and young children to secondhand tobacco smoke, which increases the risk of complications from severe viral respiratory infections.
- For high-risk infants, participation in child care should be restricted during RSV season whenever possible.
- All high-risk infants and their contacts should be immunized against influenza beginning at 6 months of age.
Currently, there is no vaccine for RSV; however, there is an antibody available. Dayton Children’s has its very own Synagis®Clinic where the RSV antibody can be administered. Children can receive injections of the antibody to combat the virus every month to help prevent contracting the virus. For more information, contact your pediatrician.
Symptoms may last for up to two weeks after discharge from the hospital or initial treatment. There are several things you can do to help your child be more comfortable:
- Use normal saline nose drops to loosen nasal secretions and a bulb syringe to help remove secretions from nose.
- If the air at home is dry, a mist humidifier or cool mist vaporizer may be used to help your child breathe easier.
- If your child has a fever you may use an acetaminophen product as directed by your doctor. Some products you may use are Liquiprim, Panadol, Tempra, and Tylenol. Do not give aspirin or aspirin-containing products to infants.
- Encourage plenty of fluids. Do not worry if your child does not want to eat. Your child’s appetite should return as he or she gets better.
- For the next few days your child will need more rest than usual. You should limit your child’s activities.
You should call your doctor whenever you are worried about your child; however, it is especially important to call if:
- Your child seems to be getting worse in any way.
- The congestion keeps your child from being able to sleep or drink.
- Your child has difficult or rapid breathing.
- Your child has a fever of 101°F or higher.
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