Have a child under two? Then it’s likely that you’ve dealt with RSV, since “almost all children get RSV at least once before they are 2 years old,” according to http://healthychildren.org.
Respiratory syncytial virus is one of many viruses that cause illnesses of the nose, throat and lungs. Most healthy children experience RSV as a cold, but some children can get very sick with this virus. As a pediatrician and father of four, I’ve seen lots of cases of RSV, and I know it can be scary for parents. So what makes RSV so serious? What symptoms should prompt a visit to your pediatrician? And how can you prevent your child from getting RSV?
When we get a respiratory illness, mucus builds up in our nasal passages and breathing tubes, making us stuffy and perhaps giving us a cough. For babies and toddlers, their lungs and airways are so small that a little mucus can wreak a lot of havoc. Beyond difficulty breathing, they may also struggle to eat, especially babies who are still on a mostly milk diet, which can lead to dehydration. The virus may be particularly dangerous in babies being exposed for the first time.
Once the patient is through the worst of it, milder symptoms may stick around for longer than you think. While many adults are over a cold within a week, babies and toddlers may have a lingering cough and congestion for two to three weeks.
If your child is having mild symptoms and you’re comfortable managing them at home, you should be fine to ride out the course of the illness until it passes in a week or so. But there are some signs that should prompt you to call your pediatrician:
A good rule of thumb is this: If something doesn’t seem right or you are worried, don’t hesitate to give your pediatrician a call as early as possible. If you are concerned, we are concerned, too. We want to be a resource and support you in caring for your child at home. We’ll help you make a plan to get you through.
Prevention for RSV is better than a cure, especially in young babies. Be aware that an adult with a mild cold could have RSV. So when you or another person interacting with your baby has cold symptoms, be sure to wash your hands, cover your coughs and do what you can to protect your little one.
If your child develops symptoms of RSV, there are a few home remedies that can be effective. Drop or spray some saline solution into the nose and use a baby nasal aspirator to clear out those little airways, especially before meals or naps. Humidifiers, too, can make your child a lot more comfortable, especially as they’re lying down to sleep. Managing symptoms with these methods can do a lot to help your child sleep and eat better, which will help them recover.
RSV is often just a cold, but it can get serious for babies and young children. If your child develops a cold and the symptoms start to worry you, reach out to your pediatrician. They can help you find the best venue for care, and someone will be available to help day or night. Most of the time, the best place to get help is at your baby’s pediatrician’s office. In the meantime, take steps to prevent your child from getting RSV so they can be well as they keep growing stronger.
Kevin Nelson is a pediatrician at Utah Valley Pediatrics, which serves Utah families in nine locations throughout Utah Valley.
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‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort