Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects the lungs and breathing passages, and it is one of many causes of the common cold. RSV is highly contagious and common during the fall through spring.
It spreads from an infected child by nose or mouth secretions via the air or direct contact. A sick child is most contagious at the onset of RSV before symptoms appear. Children are contagious for approximately 1 week. The cough may last up to 2-3 weeks.
Reduce Your Baby’s Risk
Take preventative measures to decrease your baby’s chance of contracting RSV by:
- Insisting people wash hands before touching your baby.
- Avoiding exposure to sick individuals
- Breastfeeding your baby, even if you are sick. You won’t spread your cold through breastmilk, but you will provide your baby with protective antibodies.
- Limiting the baby’s time with sick siblings and requiring them to frequently wash their hands.
- Avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke because this can increase susceptibility to RSV
Signs of RSV
RSV symptoms are usually mild and similar to a common cold. Children under two should be closely watched to detect if RSV progresses to bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
- Symptoms start with a runny nose, minor cough, and sometimes a fever.
- After 1 or 2 days, the cough worsens.
- Breathing may become difficult, or cause wheezing when exhaling.
- Drinking and swallowing become difficult because the baby is focused on breathing.
- Slightly blue fingertips or lips are signs of insufficient oxygen to the bloodstream.
What to Do If Your Baby Develops RSV
There is no medication that treats the RSV virus, so use these tips to treat the symptoms:
- Remove nasal fluids with saline drops and a bulb syringe
- Keep the baby hydrated
- Give acetaminophen or other non-aspirin fever-reducer
Call your pediatrician if your baby develops any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever develops and the child is younger than 2 or 3 months
- Dry mouth, crying without tears, urinating less often, or other signs of dehydration
If RSV develops into bronchiolitis or pneumonia, hospitalization may be necessary to administer medications and humidified oxygen.
Your pediatrician will take a sample from your child’s nose. The results will determine if the RSV virus is present.
Those at Increased Risk
Some babies have an increased risk of contracting RSV and a more serious condition. These babies require close observation, and a pediatrician should conduct an examination as soon as symptoms worsen. The following children are more at risk:
- Premature babies
- Children under two who have a prior heart or lung condition
- Babies with a compromised immune system due to medical treatment or illness
- Babies under 8-10 weeks old
If you have more questions about RSV, please call us.
The information and content on our website should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment or advice from your doctor.