November 7, 2023
5 ways to give the ER the cold shoulder this winter
- Family Medicine
- Urgent Care
April 18, 2017 | Adult and Adolescent Medicine
Certain conditions are extremely common in children, even generally healthy children, and one of these is respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. RSV is a virus that causes infection in the lungs and respiratory tract, and it often feels like the common cold for many older children or adults.
Infants and younger children who get RSV may be at risk of other complications—the virus is so common that the majority of children have already been infected by the time they’re two years old.
There are things you can do to help prevent RSV and most cases only require simple treatment methods.
For most cases of RSV, symptoms show up within four to six days. In older children and adults, symptoms are similar to a basic cold—cough and sore throat, fever, runny nose and perhaps a mild headache.
The larger concern with more severe cases of RSV include infections and other conditions like pneumonia. These are especially risky for infants, who are affected most severely by RSV. These symptoms include:
If any of these symptoms are present in infants, or if they’re more irritable or lethargic than usual, seek medical care right away. Complications can arise quickly, including:
The RSV virus is very transferable—it can live for hours on many different objects, and it passes into the body through any opening like the nose, mouth or eyes. It can spread through direct contact or through actions like coughing and sneezing. Most children will already have been infected by age 2, and risk is higher during the winter season.
Factors that increase the risk of RSV include:
After using one of a few tests to determine if symptoms truly indicate RSV, your doctor will give you treatment recommendations. In many cases, these are home remedies meant to reduce symptoms and increase comfort—your doctor may prescribe a painkiller, or an antibiotic for infection. Keep yourself or your child as comfortable as you can, and keep fluid levels high.
In some cases—when there is a need for IV or oxygen, or if a child is having trouble breathing—hospital care is needed.
Because there’s no vaccine for RSV, preventing it comes down standard precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
If you or your child has respiratory syncytial virus, or if your infant is showing severe symptoms, speak to your doctor right away.
As a physician, I love helping people through stressful times when they may be sick or hurt. I want to be the kind of doctor that I would want for my own family. When a doctor takes the time to help their patients understand what is happening and what the plan is, a patient’s anxiety can be greatly reduced. The patient should receive all the information they need to be an equal partner in decision-making and feel empowered about caring for their body. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
“Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html
“Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/respiratory-syncytial-virus/basics/definition/con-20022497
The Live Better Team
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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.