Parents Should Stay on the Lookout for RSV, a Virus that is Spreading Faster than Ever Among Children
By Yehudit Garmaise
As cold and flu season is just starting to kick in, parents should stay on the lookout for symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), to which kids are especially vulnerable.
“RSV is going to have a big impact this fall and winter,” says Czer Anthoney Lim, MD, the director of emergency pediatric medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC. “We’re already seeing the number of patients with RSV that we would normally see in January.”
Not only do approximately 2.1 million children younger than five-years-old get diagnosed with RSV each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the RSV causes an additional 58,000 to 80,000 kids to be hospitalized.
RSV’s symptoms of cough, sneezing, fever, exhaustion, and irritability can also be symptoms of common colds, flus, or Covid, but RSV can cause breathing problems and pneumonia.
While no antibiotic or antiviral medication can treat RSV, parents should just provide RSV-infected children with Motrin or Tylenol and comfort them as they sniffle and cough, Dr. Lim told goodhousekeeping.com.
A highly contagious virus that infects patients’ lungs and respiratory tracts, RSV can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, RSV spreads quickly in daycare centers and schools.
Patients infected with RSV are most contagious in their first weeks of feeling sick, but sometimes, the virus can spread up to a month after all symptoms pass.
How is RSV transmitted?
RSV infects people by getting into their bodies through their noses, mouths, or eyes after breathing in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected with RSV.
RSV can also infect people who touch their mucus membranes after touching surfaces that are contaminated with those RSV, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Who is most at risk of getting RSV?
“We all probably get exposed to RSV a couple of times a year, and most children have had the virus by the time they’re two years old,” said Kristin L. Moffitt, MD, an associate physician in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Although anyone can get RSV, some patients are at higher risk of complications from RSV.
Patients are particularly at risk if they had organ transplants, are undergoing chemotherapy, have heart or lung disease, or have weakened immune systems.
Also, premature babies, as their lungs have not fully developed, and babies under six months old, can chas v’shalom, suffer from complications from RSV.
How to prevent RSV:
People should wash their hands frequently, and make sure their children do as well. Frequently touched surfaces like tables, toys, and door handles should be cleaned and disinfected frequently.
Also, try to prevent sick people from visiting your home.
The Good News:
“Most likely, if your children get RSV this year, next year it’ll be a milder case if they get it again,” said Dr. Lim. “Still, it’s important to try to avoid RSV infection for your child now if you can.”