RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and causes an infection in the lungs. It resembles a cold and is very contagious. RSV can be spread by coughing, sneezing and other forms of contact in which one person comes into contact with an infected person's germs.
Most babies will be affected by RSV before they are 2 years old. While some babies will only experience a cold from RSV, others will experience a very serious respiratory infection, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia. RSV can develop at any time during the year, but doctors see more cases of the infection from October-March every year.
Babies that were born prematurely are at an increased risk of developing RSV. Children that have diseases or disorders of the heart, lungs or immune system have an increased risk of developing RSV. Many doctors recommend giving babies that are at an increased risk of developing RSV a medication that can help to prevent the infection. To prevent RSV in your child, you should always keep your child away from anyone that is coughing, sneezing or otherwise ill. To keep your baby's lungs strong and healthy, do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your baby. Handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection. Make sure that your hands and other people's hands are clean when they are holding or playing with your child. Wash your child's hands frequently and keep any items that the baby puts in their mouth sanitized.
RSV symptoms usually last approximately 1-2 weeks. Symptoms of RSV include:
If you notice any symptoms of RSV or child's "cold" is getting worse, call your child's doctor immediately to schedule an appointment. If your child is experiencing any difficulty breathing or their lips or fingernails are blue, contact your local emergency department or visit the emergency room immediately.
To test for RSV, usually a physical examination is all that is required Sometimes the doctor will take a swab of the nasal drainage to examine.
If your child has been diagnosed with RSV and it is not severe, home treatment for a cold is usually sufficient. You should encourage your child to drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Because of the risk of a serious side effect, do not give over-the-counter cough medications to a child under the age of 2. It can be helpful to use a nasal suctioner to clear mucus from the nose. Other home treatment methods include keeping the fever under control with acetaminophen or ibuprofen and making sure that your child is comfortable. You can use a cool-mist vaporizer to keep the air moist. RSV is caused by a virus and there are multiple strands of the infection so antibiotics are not effective. However, if the symptoms are severe or has caused pneumonia or bronchiolitis, hospital treatments are often necessary. Babies are often hospitalized to monitor their respiratory condition.
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