Q. RSV is going around my daughter’s daycare. What is RSV and how do I know if my daughter has it?
Respiratory syncytial virus is the most common germ that causes lung and airway infections in infants and young children. Children ages 2 months to 12 months are the most likely to be affected. RSV cases peak during the winter months.
RSV spreads through person-to-person contact. It starts with nasal congestion. In older children and adults, the symptoms are indistinguishable from the common cold. Infants and young children, however, often develop worse symptoms, such as fever, wheezing and difficulty breathing because of increased mucous production and swelling in the airway.
Risk factors for developing RSV include daycare attendance, exposure to tobacco smoke, crowded living and school-age children living in the home.
RSV is a viral illness, so antibiotics do not help. There is no cure for RSV. In milder cases, the best treatments include nasal saline drops, bulb nasal suction, cool-mist humidifier and fever reducers such as Tylenol as needed.
In more severe cases, an infant may need to be hospitalized to receive oxygen, nasal suctioning and IV fluids. Sometimes albuterol nebulizer treatments (“breathing treatments”) may be effective, but this is not always the case.
It is important to note that over-the-counter decongestants or cough medicines should not be used. Children with RSV symptoms – nasal congestion with rapid breathing, labored breathing, wheezing – should be seen by their health care provider for evaluation.