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  • Writer's pictureDr. Loretta Cody

The Rise of RSV in Children

There is an alarming number of children hospitalized with RSV this October. Let’s answer some key questions about RSV.

What exactly is RSV?

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, a contagious respiratory virus that may affect many (especially older children) as just the symptoms of a common cold. A common cold may be associated with fever, nasal congestion, and cough. The younger the child, the more they are at risk for concerning symptoms and even hospitalization.

What are the worrisome symptoms of RSV?

RSV can lead to something called bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is a lung issue that can cause wheezing and trouble breathing.

How do you know if your child has a concerning form of RSV?

  • Look for signs of trouble breathing, such as breathing too quickly or retractions, which are when the chest area pulls in when the child is breathing (imagine what someone would look like after running a marathon!)

  • A decreased ability to eat

  • Irritability

If you see any of these signs, you must call your pediatrician.

How can you prevent the spread of RSV?

As with many viruses, you should make sure your child:

  • washes their hands frequently

  • covers their mouth when they cough

  • avoids close contact with a sick person

Can you treat RSV?

If your child is showing symptoms of a cold, follow the supportive treatment you usually would use:

  • Encourage fluid intake

  • Provide fever-reducing medication (but please speak to your pediatrician if you have an infant with a fever)

If your child begins wheezing or shows any signs of trouble breathing, call your pediatrician for guidance on treatment immediately.

Why the surge of RSV now?

The thinking on this is that during the pandemic, children were home and not exposed to or spreading RSV, and now it has come back with a vengeance.

This virus usually peaks in the winter, but we are seeing a fall surge, with some cases beginning in the summer. Experts are not exactly sure why the early surge—it is possible that the pandemic put a hold on many viruses, and now they have resurfaced earlier and at much higher numbers than predicted in the past.

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