RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a virus that is common during the cold and flu season. In fact, almost all kids get RSV infections during early childhood. Luckily, most cases are minor and result in symptoms that mimic the common cold. However, RSV can cause more severe infections including pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Typically, RSV infections become severe in the very young, the very old, and the immune-compromised.
There is currently no vaccine for RSV, however, researchers are hard-at-work on developing one.
Symptoms of RSV Infections
- Runny Nose/Congestion
- Not eating well
- Breathing fast
- Grunting, head bobbing, or tugging at their ribs and/or neck while breathing
- Belly breathing
Symptoms take between 4 and 6 days to appear and usually last for 5 to 7 days. However, those who are immune-compromised may experience symptoms for as long as one month. If your child has symptoms lasting longer than 7 days, please contact your pediatric healthcare provider.
Also, if your child under the age of 6 months has some of these symptoms, then it is best that they are seen right away. Please call the office and schedule your sick visit as soon as possible.
RSV Infections: Prevention
RSV infections are spread through saliva and mucus. RSV survives for hours on everyday objects and unclean hands. Protect yourself and your child by keeping clean during the cold and flu season. Wash your hands often and keep any shared objects clean (e.g. doorknobs, banisters, toys, tools). Teach your child good hygiene and boost your immunity to avoid getting sick during the cold and flu season.
Wash your Hands
When washing your hands, make it a practice to wash the entire surface of the hand (between fingers, backs of hands, fingertips, wrists) for 20 full seconds. You can make it a game with your child by finding fun ways to count up to 20 (one-banana, two-banana, three-banana…). Hand-washing is a valuable skill that all children should learn.
Especially during flu season, it’s important to keep saliva and mucus to ourselves. Kissing, shaking hands, sharing cups or utensils, and putting foreign objects in our mouths are sure ways of contracting RSV and other viruses. Practice good hygiene and steer clear of people exhibiting symptoms.
Don’t touch your face.
Teach your young child not to touch their face. Often times, germs are transmitted to children by their own hands. Putting hands and fingers in the mouth, nose, or eyes can often be the means of infection.
Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Always teach your child to cough or sneeze away from people and into the crook of the armpit, elbow, or hand. Always wash hands after sneezing or coughing.
If you or your child are contagious, just stay home. However, if you do choose to stay home (and you should), please do not lay in one position all day. Get up and walk around in short bursts. Get fresh air by spending a few minutes in your backyard. Try not to lay on one side exclusively, as gravity helps mucus to settle in one place in your lungs, making your symptoms more uncomfortable and harder to clear up.
Keep an eye on breathing.
If your child is not breathing normally, it is important that you call your pediatric healthcare provider. Working harder than usual to breathe could be an indication that they have a bad respiratory infection. A good rule-of-thumb for deciding if your child is working too hard is to keep an eye on your kid’s ribcage. If it is caving in and forming an upside-down “V”, then your child is working too hard and you need to call your pediatric healthcare provider or go to the emergency department.
When to Call Your Provider
- Abnormal breathing
- Excessive secretions (e.g. mucus, snot, tears)
- Difficult for your child to eat or sleep
- Dehydration (less than 1 wet diaper in 8 hours)
- Symptoms haven’t improved after 7 days
When to Go to the ER
- Your baby is lethargic and refusing to eat/drink
- Breathing is taking the child’s full effort
- You can see the ribs at every breath and the child’s stomach is moving in and out rapidly with every breath
- Your child is clearly in distress
RSV Infections: Treatment
RSV infections typically go away on their own, however, you can help to manage minor symptoms at home.
- Use a fever reducer. Infants old enough for over-the-counter pain medications can have Tylenol or Motrin for fever and pain. Take a look at our handy dosage chart to learn more about what dose to give your child.
- Keep your child hydrated. As with most illnesses, it is important that your child gets plenty to drink. Keeping them well-hydrated will help your child to heal faster and to avoid the clinic or emergency room.
- Use a nose sucker. At home, you can use a Nose Frida or other nose sucker in order to help remove snot from your child. This can help improve breathing and feeding in your infant.
- Use a humidifier to help break up mucus. This is especially important during winter months when we experience drier conditions.
If you have questions or concerns, you can always communicate with us through the Spruce app. On Spruce, you can videotape your child and send the videos safely through the app. You can also send and receive documents or simply message back and forth to your provider with this encrypted and HIPAA-compliant portal.
All Growing Healthy Together patients should have received a link to download the app. If you haven’t, please text or email us for the link and we’d be more than happy to share it with you!
For other questions or comments, you can respond to this post or contact us.