RSV has been on the rise. Hospitalization rates among young children have been concerning in many areas and vaccines are now available.
You probably have a lot of questions. How can you best protect yourself and your family? Should you get immunized? And where should you go for care?
Here is everything you need to know about the RSV infection.
What is RSV?
RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory illness that causes cold-like symptoms. The virus is the leading cause of hospitalization among infants.
Young children, especially under the age of two, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience severe infection. The virus can linger in the lungs causing inflammation or infection to develop in the airways. When this happens, young children may start to have difficulty breathing, known as respiratory distress.
How do you know if you or your child has RSV?
During the first few days of infection, children and adults with RSV typically have signs of an upper respiratory infection. Symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion and drainage
- Wet cough
Most cases of RSV in adults and older children present with mild upper respiratory symptoms. These symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as fever reducers, cough medications and decongestants.
What symptoms should I be concerned about?
Younger children and adults with weakened immune systems may have more severe respiratory symptoms. These generally worsen in children around days three to five. Signs of breathing distress include:
- Rapid breathing
- Nasal flaring
- Excessive coughing
- Pulling of the rib and neck muscles when they exhale
- Belly breathing
- Loss of appetite
If you or your child is experiencing signs of severe shortness of breath, such as rapid breathing, grunting, irritability or lethargy, please proceed to the nearest emergency department to be evaluated.
How is RSV diagnosed?
Respiratory infections, including RSV and the seasonal flu, are diagnosed using a nasal swab.
Testing is not always necessary, especially if you have mild cold symptoms and are not experiencing any breathing distress. Follow these self-care tips:
- Take non-aspirin pain relievers as needed to control fever or pain
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Rest at home
- Stay away from others to avoid spreading the virus
How do you treat RSV?
There is no specific medicine to treat RSV. Antibiotics will not help treat the virus. RSV infection will not respond to asthma medications like inhaled or systemic steroids.
If your child is experiencing symptoms, your pediatrician at Summit Health can help. You can also walk right into your neighborhood CityMD to obtain a timely diagnosis and receive advice on treatment options.
What are some tips to avoid RSV?
You cannot completely avoid catching the virus, but you can lower your risk. Follow these tips to reduce your exposure to germs:
- Avoid social situations where someone is sick.
- Take a home COVID-19 test if you have mild upper respiratory symptoms.
- Practice good hand hygiene.
- Clean faucets, doorknobs and other high-traffic areas to reduce germs.
Which RSV immunizations are available this season?
Vaccines are available at Summit Health pediatric and primary care offices. It is always advisable that patients call ahead of time to make sure doses are available.
Three RSV immunizations are currently approved to protect against respiratory syncytial virus: Beyfortus™, Abrysvo™, and Arexvy. Different immunizations are recommended for certain age groups and populations.
- Beyfortus™ is approved for use in some infants and children. Patients are considered eligible if they are less than 8 months of age during their first RSV season or 8 to 19 months of age during their second RSV season if they are considered at an increased risk for severe RSV disease. Please note: Beyfortus is in shortage due to high demand, so parents are encouraged to call their pediatrician’s office to confirm supply.
- Abrysvo™ and Arexvy are approved for patients 60 years of age or older at increased risk for severe RSV-associated disease.
- Abrysvo™ is also approved for use in pregnant individuals during weeks 32 to 36 of pregnancy.
How Summit Health and CityMD can help
If you are feeling under the weather, make an appointment with your pediatrician at Summit Health or visit your neighborhood CityMD to see one of our healthcare providers, get diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment for your symptoms.