RSV was an infection an 8-month-old child brought into Dr. Juanita Mora’s Chicago office in September that the doctor hadn’t anticipated seeing for another two months. The allergist and immunologist has been treating infants with this cold-like virus well before the typical start of the season, just like her colleagues around the nation.
RSV infections are spreading rapidly across the nation, according to Mora. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost every kid contracts RSV at least point before they reach two. The majority of individuals who contract it experience a moderate sickness; nevertheless, it can be dangerous for the elderly, people with chronic heart or lung conditions, and people with compromised immune systems.
But RSV can be particularly challenging for young children and newborns. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, has symptoms that parents, caregivers, and daycare workers should be aware of, according to Mora, a volunteer medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association.
They can then decide if a sick child can get care at home or if a hospital visit is necessary. We want parents to know they can go to their paediatrician and get tested for RSV, influenza, and even Covid-19 because “the emergency department is getting utterly swamped with all these ill kids,” Mora added.
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What To Watch For
RSV frequently results in a minor illness that can be treated at home. According to the CDC, an illness typically lasts five days to a few weeks before going away on its own. Pediatricians believe the cough can occasionally last up to four weeks. Common cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing, may also be present.
Young infants may merely appear agitated or sluggish and struggle to breathe. Not every youngster who could experience RSV symptoms will. Dr. Priya Soni, an assistant professor of paediatric infectious diseases at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, warned that fevers are quite unpredictable with RSV infections, especially in small newborns.
She advised parents to keep an eye out for any behavioral changes, including as eating more slowly or showing no interest in food at all. Additionally, the child may start to cough violently and start to wheeze. The symptoms of these conditions “may kind of overlap with many of the other viruses that we’re seeing a recurrence of,” Soni said, “so it’s essential to monitor for indicators that your child is having trouble breathing or breathing through their ribs or belly.”
It’s a good idea to take a sick child to a pediatrician so they can perform tests to determine the cause because it can be difficult for parents to distinguish between respiratory disorders like, say, RSV and flu. Soni suggested that you take your child in for an evaluation as soon as possible.
East Tennessee Children’s Hospital is seeing a rise in RSV cases compared to last year. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a common cause of cold-like symptoms like runny nose, cough and fever. Dr. Joe Childs speaks to WATE about how to protect your kids. https://t.co/0xsMmYLRRW pic.twitter.com/Bbnk8AQsiu
— East Tennessee Children’s Hospital (@EastTNChildrens) October 25, 2022
The CDC advises parents to exercise extra caution when it comes to RSV if their children are preemies, infants, children with compromised immune systems or neuromuscular diseases, and those under the age of two who have chronic lung and heart issues. Soni advised parents to be particularly alert to any indicators of respiratory distress and to any changes in their child’s activity level and appetite.
Testing is crucial since different treatments may be needed for conditions like the flu and Covid-19. Unlike the flu, which has particular antiviral medications, there is no vaccine for RSV. However, there are things you can do to assist if your child is ill. Non-aspirin pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to treat pain and fever.
Ensure your child drinks enough water as well. When children aren’t getting enough food or liquids, especially when we’re talking about infants, RSV can cause severe dehydration, according to Mora.
They may need to visit the pediatrician or emergency room if they stop eating, their urine output has reduced, or they are having less wet diapers. Before giving your child any over-the-counter cold medications—which may contain chemicals bad for kids—speak to your paediatrician.
— Sarah Betancourt (@sweetadelinevt) October 25, 2022
When To Go To The Hospital
Your pediatrician will assess the child’s oxygen levels and respiratory rate, or how quickly they are breathing. The doctor could advise taking your kid to a hospital if they are critically ill or have a high risk of becoming seriously ill. For some newborn infants and younger children, especially those who are under 2 years old, RSV can be quite harmful, according to Soni.
According to Mora, difficulty breathing is a symptom that a youngster has problems with this infection. RSV can develop into more severe conditions such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which can cause respiratory failure. When a child’s chest moves up and down while they breathe, their cough keeps them awake, or it gets worse,
“that might be a sign that they need to seek help from their pediatrician or take them to the emergency department, because then they might need a supplemental oxygen, or they may need a nebulization treatment,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This breathing difficulty, including a bobbing head, a flaring nose, or grunting, is one of two primary danger symptoms with any respiratory infection, according to CNN medical expert Dr. Leana Wen. Dehydration is the other. “That is especially true for infants who have stuffy noses. They could not be eating.
The hospital personnel will focus a lot of its attention on helping patients breathe. We give these children oxygen, IV fluids, and respiratory treatments like suctioning as supportive measures for RSV, according to Soni. To clear the mucus from their lungs, a little tube may have to be implanted.
A youngster can receive additional oxygen either through a mask or a tube that fits over their nose. Some kids might require the usage of an oxygen tent. A ventilator may be required for those who are really struggling. Some infants can also require tube feeding.
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How To Prevent RSV
Teaching children to cough and sneeze into tissues or into their elbows rather than their hands is one of the greatest methods to prevent RSV infections, according to physicians. Try to keep surfaces that are touched regularly clean as well.
According to Mora, if a caretaker or senior sibling is ill, they should wash their hands often and wear a mask among other individuals. Most importantly, anyone who is ill—whether a child or an adult—should stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.
Children who are most at risk for developing a serious illness can receive treatment with monoclonal antibodies. Although not available to everyone, it can safeguard those who are most at risk. During the usual RSV season, a child can receive it as a shot once a month. Consult your doctor to find out if your child is eligible.