While respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) might mean a runny nose and cough for most people, for newborns, the elderly, and others with chronic health conditions, it could be much more dangerous.
“Typically, RSV affects almost everyone, from the very young to the very old. If you’ve had a cold this winter, you’ve probably had RSV,” said Michael Forbes, MD, an intensivist in the pediatric intensive care unit at Akron Children’s Hospital. “But if you have a pre-existing condition involving your heart and lungs, or if you’re a pre-term baby, it certainly can be a life-changing if not a life-threatening infection.”
RSV is a member of the same family of viruses as influenza and produces many of the same symptoms.
“The symptoms of RSV typically begin with a runny nose, a cough, and for babies, the babies we’re most concerned about, they seem to get tired easily,” said Dr. Forbes. “They run out of gas. They won’t feed as much, and if they are not eating as much, they don’t wet diapers as much.”
He added, “Most babies, at some point, will have a fever in the midst of the infection. Many of them won’t. So that’s really not the trigger to worry. It’s really their behavior.”
Parents seeing these signs should call their pediatrician for advice. In the following video, Dr. Forbes also discusses how RSV is spread and what parents can do to help keep it from showing up in their household.