RSV: What to do when it is more than just a cold

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

This time of year, parents know to be on alert for the cold virus or the flu. However, there is another health issue that should not be overlooked—respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This childhood virus can cause mild, cold-like symptoms, as well as infection of the lungs and respiratory tract. RSV season varies according to where you live, but it typically begins in October and runs through April.

RSV can infect anyone. In fact, many children have been infected by the age of two. Fortunately, most recover from an RSV infection on their own. The virus can be potentially serious for infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the United States, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways of the lung, and pneumonia in children younger than the age of one.

RSV symptoms are very similar to a cold and usually appear within four-to-six days of exposure. Those symptoms include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever or wheezing. Pediatricians can diagnose RSV by asking parents about symptoms as well as doing a physical exam. However, it is important to contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child develops more serious symptoms like breathing difficulties, high fever, wheezing or a blue tinge to the skin, especially on the lips and nail bed.

While no vaccine has yet been developed, the CDC recommends some steps to take to help prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Ask people to wash their hands before touching your infant or young child.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, like toys and doorknobs.

Children most at risk for severe or life-threatening RSV infections are premature infants, babies younger than six month, as well as children with chronic health issues, weakened immune systems and neuromuscular disorders.

Regardless of what symptoms your child is dealing with this cold, flu or RSV season, call 832-548-5000 to make an appointment to see his or her Legacy pediatrician.

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