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1/30/23 blog post

surprising facts about RSV

sad baby girlIt is now officially winter and the kids are stuck inside at school. This is the time that parents associate with cold viruses, influenza, and all other sorts of illnesses that seem to travel around the area and infect our kids (and often their parents too)!

It is dreaded by many parents each year, especially when you have young children. But one of the most feared viruses that appears at this time of the year is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV.) Well, I have a little secret for you, your child’s doctor dreads this virus as well!

Whether you have heard of RSV or not you may be surprised by some of these facts about this illness.

fact #1: Almost all children have come down with RSV by the time they are 2 years old.

It typically causes congestion, cough, fever,  and mild headache – like the symptoms of a common cold. It can also infect adults, although typically the older you are, and the more times you get RSV, the milder the symptoms. RSV is highly contagious and is spread through droplets that contain the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states the RSV can 

survive for up to six hours on surfaces like computer keyboards, doorknobs, and toys….as well as for 30 minutes or more on unwashed hands! RSV can spread rapidly through schools and daycare centers during the times of the year when it is circulating in the community (mainly from late fall through early spring).

The big kicker comes in that this virus, although usually annoying and short lived for healthy children, can really cause a problem for infants and young children that were born premature, have heart disease, lung disease, or certain types of problems with their immune system. But unfortunately, having a healthy robust young child is not a free pass when it comes to RSV – sometimes these children develop severe disease too.

fact #2: Preventing RSV is no different than preventing a cold

So, is there anything we can do to keep this virus at bay?

  • Washing hands well and often
  • Wiping down common surfaces with an antiviral wipe
  • Try to wash your hands after having any contact with someone who has cold symptoms
  • If older school-age kids get a cold, try to keep them away from any younger siblings – especially infants – as much as is realistic – until their symptoms pass

fact #3: Antibiotics are not the answer for treating RSV

And what do we do if our child gets a bad cold and we suspect they have RSV?

Gratefully, most cases of RSV are mild and require no specific treatment from doctors. Antibiotics aren’t used because RSV is a virus and antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. At home, make your child as comfortable as possible.

  • Provide plenty of fluids
  • To help your child breathe easier, use a cool mist humidifier
  • Use nasal saline to the nose – ideally before he/she is going to eat or lay down to sleep – followed by the use of a nasal aspirator. This is our way of blowing their nose as the young ones can’t do this on their own.
  • Treat a fever by using acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if the child is older than 6 months of age). Aspirin should not be used in children as it has been associated with Reye syndrome, a life-threatening illness.

fact #4: RSV can be very dangerous, especially to younger children or those with an underlying health issue. Seek immediate help if your child exhibits any of the following:

  • Rapid breathing or labored breathing
  • Signs of dehydration
  • A child that is severely irritable or inactive
  • If fingernails or lips appear blue
  • High fever and looks very sick

Please keep in mind that if you are unsure about your child’s health – please call your child’s doctor or set up an appointment. 

quick care for minor conditions

If you think your child needs to be seen for a minor condition and you can't get into your child's doctor, bring them to Kids Express. Kids Express is the only pediatric-focused retail clinic in the region. Save your spot online before you come and wait from home! 

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