RSV – Not Always Simple

14 11 2011

Almost all kids in the United States are infected with RSV by the time they’re two years of age. In adults and older kids and teens, the symptoms resemble your basic cold, and for most babies and toddlers, it’s not a serious infection, but it’s capable of great nastiness.

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus, or RSV, was identified in 1956 and is the usual suspect in “lung and airway infections in infants and young children.”

It’s a contagious virus — spreads easily through droplets that infected people cough or sneeze into the air. Those droplets that aren’t inhaled by others land on surfaces, which are then touched by unsuspecting individuals. The germ gets on people’s hands and infects them when they touch their noses or mouths.

The virus is no lightweight. It can survive for at least 30 minutes on one’s hands, nearly five hours on surfaces, and even longer on contaminated tissues.

Symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, and may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Fever

There is a simple and quick test for RSV that clinics can run. Because it’s a virus, antibiotics don’t work against it, and most of the time, there is no treatment because the symptoms will be no worse than those of a mild cold.

But, more severe infections can lead to pneumonia, bronchiolitis, lung failure, and a host of related problems. If a baby or toddler (or anyone, really) has difficulty breathing, get them to a hospital. There they will be treated for their symptoms and treatment may include oxygen, IV, or even a ventilator.

To stop transmission of RSV, pertussis (whooping cough), colds, flu and many other infections, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, don’t swap spit with others, and don’t share forks, cups, straws, or anything else that’s been in your mouth.

There’s no vaccine for RSV, but there is a drug that can be given monthly to those kids at high risk of severe illness. Check with your provider about this preventive option, and if your young one has any symptoms that would lead you to suspect RSV or any other infection, it never hurts to take him in for a visit.

By Trish Parnell

Video courtesy of  TheDoctorsVideos



One response

8 12 2011

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