Each year, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, is responsible for about 58,000 hospitalizations and 100 – 500 deaths among children younger than 5 years of age. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent health advisory about the rise of RSV, it’s important for parents to know the signs, symptoms and when to take action.
“The increase of RSV-associated illness is likely because kids haven’t had typical levels of exposure to RSV over the past 15 months due to precautions like masking and distancing to combat COVID-19,” said Michael Forbes, MD, FAAP, Medical Staff president and director of Clinical Research & Outcomes Analysis in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “Without exposure, kids can’t buildup immunities, and for certain categories of children such as preterm babies (<37 weeks gestational age) and those with chronic health conditions that affect the lungs, heart or immune system, the onset of RSV can quickly lead to hospitalization. Parents should talk with their health care provider to understand if their child is in a high risk category.”
Dr. Forbes notes that changes in infant behavior are just as important to notice as the cold-like symptoms of cough and runny nose the virus produces. In infants younger than 6 months, symptoms may include irritability, poor feeding, tiredness and not having as many wet diapers. In older infants and young children, decreased appetite may appear 1 to 3 days before a cough, often followed by sneezing, fever and sometimes wheezing.
RSV is highly contagious – passed via airborne droplets from person to person or on surfaces – and can spread quickly. Since RSV is a viral infection, not bacterial, antibiotics aren’t used to teat it. The best defense is often rest, drinking plenty of fluids and seeking guidance from a health care provider.
Call a provider if your child has:
- High fever and doesn’t look well
- Thick nasal discharge
- Cough that gets worse or produces yellow, green or gray mucus
- Signs of dehydration
- Increased crankiness or refusal to breastfeed or bottle-feed
Get medical help right away if your child:
- Has trouble breathing or is breathing very rapidly
- Is very drowsy
- Has lips or fingernails that look blue
For health assessments, Akron Children’s offers virtual visits via Quick Care Online and onsite visits at dozens of pediatric primary care offices throughout northeast Ohio. For timely, in-person visits, Akron Children’s also has urgent care and emergency locations throughout the region. For guidelines on when to choose Quick, Urgent or Emergency Care, click here.