While we may have reached a certain comfort level with some of the viruses in our lives, there is one virus that poses a particular danger to young children across the country: respiratory syncytial virus. RSV infects two out of three children by their first birthday. Many children can recover from a viral infection without any complications, but for some, it can spread to the lungs and cause a more severe infection. In fact, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for children under the age of 1.
There is no preventive treatment for RSV yet (scientists are working on it!), but it helps to learn more about this potentially dangerous virus. Here are some surprising facts about RSV that you may not have known. Talk to your doctor for more information.
The first symptoms of RSV are usually mild and may include a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, and fever. And while these symptoms appear in almost every childhood illness, the difference with RSV is that things can go downhill very quickly, especially with children.
There are two main symptoms parents often miss: 1. The baby is breathing too fast, says Christina Dieter, a pediatric intensive care specialist and medical director at Pediatrix Critical Care and Hospital in Nevada. 2. The child’s breathing stops for a short time. “Any child who has difficulty breathing or eating should be seen immediately so they can be evaluated before things get worse,” she says.
RSV is usually thought of as a virus that only affects infants and children, but the truth is that anyone can become infected with RSV (and in fact, almost every human being). Most recover from the virus within a few weeks, but some people will be at higher risk of complications, including children under 2 years of age, adults over 65, and anyone with a medical condition or a weakened immune system.
“This risk is increased in premature babies, children with conditions affecting the lungs such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, children with congenital heart disease and children with Down syndrome,” adds Rachel Buck, MD, pediatrics, Phoenix Children’s in Paradise Valley, Arizona. “. In addition, the presence of smoke in the home increases the risk of complications from RSV.
While the risk of serious complications from RSV is greater in children with other conditions, it is also important to understand that RSV does not discriminate. In fact, the majority of RSV hospitalizations are babies born without underlying health problems. RSV is a lower respiratory infection that affects the bronchi (the small airways in the lungs), Dr. Buck explains, and because children’s airways are so small, the virus can become much more dangerous. So pay attention to the symptoms that appear in the child, which may include difficulty breathing and eating, dehydration, and stopping breathing.
Unfortunately, just because a child had RSV once, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t get it again. RSV, like many other viruses, can infect more than once. Fortunately, Victoria Regan, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, says that if your child has been infected twice, the subsequent infections are likely to be milder than the first round.
The good news is that while RSV can be severe for certain groups, Dr. Regan says most cases of RSV can be successfully treated at home through strategies such as making sure your child is hydrated, using a cool-mist humidifier, and clearing your child’s nose with a suction device and saline. Saline and use of over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers as appropriate. It notes that less than 3 percent of children will need to be hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus.
We all know breast milk can be golden liquid in so many ways, and according to Dr. Regan, breast milk also contains a special antibody that can specifically help fight off RSV — so if you’re a nursing parent, go ahead and offer all the breast your baby wants and the milk they want!
As we learn more about the serious symptoms of RSV, Patricia N. RSV in your home.
Other ways you can help prevent the spread of RSV include:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes (look at you older siblings!).
- Avoid allowing others to have close contact with the child when they are sick, such as kissing the child.
- Do not touch faces with unwashed hands.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as phones and doorknobs.
- Talk to your child’s healthcare professional for additional information about RSV.
As parents, it can be very difficult to overcome illness with our children, especially in light of the past two years. But the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to make these decisions alone — finding a trusted doctor you can turn to when you have questions makes all the difference. “Parents are always the best judge, and we as pediatricians rely on them to alert us if their child appears ill,” says Robin Jacobson, MD, medical director of pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Associates. In other words? You know your child best, so don’t hesitate to call your doctor or seek medical attention if you think something is wrong.
Article republished from TheBump.com.