WARRENVILLE, Ill., Sept. 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The symptoms sound like a common cold, but respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause severe illness in babies and toddlers.
In healthy older children and adults, RSV usually only causes mild symptoms that can be managed at home with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers.
It's a common virus that virtually all children will have by the time they're 2 years old. But those at a higher risk of severe infection who get RSV — including infants, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic heart or lung disease or neuromuscular disorders, and adults 65 and older — may need to be hospitalized.
In some children, RSV can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airway passages entering the lungs.
Typically spreading in the fall and winter, medical experts have noticed an earlier circulation of RSV in 2021. Older babies and toddlers may face a higher risk of severe illness because of a reduced exposure to RSV over the past year and a half.
The early signs of RSV include:
As the infection progresses, the cough may worsen and wheezing and/or difficulty breathing and a fever may develop.
Infants who are younger than 6 months old may only show symptoms such as:
Unusually low levels of activity
Pauses while breathing (apnea) or shallow, rapid breathing
Most children who have RSV do not require treatment by a doctor or a trip to the emergency room.
Take a child to the ER or call 911 if they stop breathing, turn blue around the lips or nail beds, if they're showing signs of dehydration (including less frequent wet diapers or crying without tears), or if they're having severe difficulty breathing, such as nostrils flaring, grunting, or looking like they are getting tired from working hard to breathe.
Call or visit the doctor if you hear wheezing, a child has problems eating or drinking, if they are younger than 3 months and have a fever more than 100.8 or if they have a persistent fever and are older than 3 months.
There is no vaccine for RSV or medication to treat the virus. Antibiotics do not work for RSV or other forms of viral bronchiolitis. There is a medication given to a small number of premature infants or young children with severe heart or lung diseases that may prevent RSV, but it does not help treat the illness after symptoms have developed.