Posted by Zahra Nielsen

How to keep your family safe from RSV this winter

November 21, 2022 Family MedicineInternal MedicinePediatrics

Surges of Influenza and COVID-19 are expected this holiday season, since viral infections are typically spread through crowds and mass gatherings. However, an additional virus has doctors urging patients to take extra precautions, particularly because children and infants have a higher likelihood of being infected.

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is having a strong resurgence this year along with COVID-19 and the flu, resulting in what experts are calling a “tripledemic.” According to Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah, RSV is currently the number one reason why children are ending up in the ICU.

According to the Mayo Clinic, RSV can cause infections of the lungs and upper respiratory tract. It is highly contagious through droplets from coughing or sneezing, and it can also be contracted when a person comes into contact with a contaminated surface and then touches the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Once infected with RSV, you can expect symptoms such as:

  • Cough (both dry or wet)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fever that is prolonged
  • Congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

While RSV shares many of the same symptoms as other common illnesses, it’s important to be aware of certain myths surrounding this particular virus:

Myth 1: RSV only infects young children

Although almost all children will have been infected with RSV before their 2nd birthday, this doesn’t mean adults aren’t at risk. According to the CDC, an estimated 60,000-120,000 older adults are hospitalized due to RSV every year. People with serious health conditions should be especially careful if exposed to RSV, particularly if those conditions include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease.

Myth 2: Having RSV is just like having a mild cold

For older children and healthy adults who contract RSV, symptoms are often less severe and may last between one to two weeks. For infants who are premature or under 6 months, children with lung or heart diseases, or those with weakened immune systems, RSV can be more problematic. Infections can often spread to the lower respiratory tract and lead to pneumonia (infection of the lung) or bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung).

Myth 3: RSV can be cured

While certain medications like antibiotics and steroids can help reduce symptoms, there is currently no cure or vaccine for RSV. Those who have been infected can practice the following self-care methods to ease discomfort:

  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen medication to reduce high fevers*
  • Use steam from a humidifier to help with congestion of mucus
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Warm broths and teas can also help soothe sore throats.

*Always check with your primary care physician before giving your child any medication.

Fact: Good hygiene can help prevent RSV

Proper hygiene practices can lower your chances of contracting and spreading RSV. These include:

  • Washing Up: Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is one of the best methods of killing bacteria and stopping the spread of viruses like RSV.
  • Avoiding kissing the baby: To help prevent infants from contracting RSV, it helps to keep them from coming into close contact with those demonstrating cold-like symptoms.
  • Getting vaccinated: There aren’t any vaccines specifically for RSV yet, but staying up to date on your child’s immunizations can offer some protections against viral infections like RSV. Annual flu-shots, and the more recent COVID-19 booster, are encouraged by healthcare providers to prevent serious illness. In addition, a medication known as Palivizumab can be a good option for those who are at high-risk for health complications, such as infants, children, or older adults with severe illnesses.

If your child is having difficulty breathing, or their skin and/or lips are turning shades of blue, don’t hesitate to get help – call your doctor and seek medical care immediately. Revere Health has urgent care clinics open Monday-Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm and primary care providers who are eager to care for your family.

 

WRITTEN BY:

Zahra Nielsen

Zahra Nielsen currently serves as Revere Health’s Community Relations Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University with the intention of working with at-risk communities, but she has since found a love for community engagement, volunteerism, and outreach. Since graduating, her career has taken her to non-profit organizations across the country. From Washington D.C, New York, and Salt Lake City, she has had the opportunity to work with notable organizations such as the National Council for Adoption, Volunteers of America, and United Way. After years of working in different areas of community engagement, Zahra has found her niche in writing. She hopes to pursue this creative form of outreach as a way of inspiring community members to be mindful of their well-being and the well-being of others. In her free time, Zahra likes to practice and teach yoga. She also enjoys live theatre, listening to music, and watching endless hours of quirky movies and TV shows with her husband.

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.