RSV When It's More Than Just a Cold - RSV In Children RSV When It's More Than Just a Cold - RSV In Children

RSV: When It's More Than Just a Cold

Nearly every child contracts respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at least once before age two. While RSV typically manifests as a common cold in most healthy children, some may experience severe illness.

If you're a parent of an infant or toddler, you might have inquiries regarding RSV and strategies to mitigate its occurrence. Continue reading to gain a better understanding.

What is RSV?

RSV is among the numerous viruses responsible for causing respiratory illnesses, and it spreads similarly to the common cold virus, primarily through person-to-person transmission. It typically enters the body via the nose or eyes, often through contaminated saliva, mucus, or nasal secretions.

The prevalence of this virus typically peaks during the late fall to early spring months, although the timing can vary depending on the region.

In children under the age of 1 year, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalisation. Approximately two to three out of every 100 infants affected by RSV may require hospitalisation. These infants may require oxygen support for breathing or receive intravenous (IV) fluids if they face difficulties feeding or drinking. Fortunately, most of these children recover and can return home after a few days.

Protecting babies from RSV: nirsevimab & palivizumab

Nirsevimab, a treatment resembling immunisation, effectively prevents severe RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) illness. This injectable medication may be administered alongside your baby's routine vaccinations. Unlike vaccines, nirsevimab provides antibodies that begin safeguarding infants immediately and offer protection throughout a typical RSV season.

  • For infants younger than eight months of age, it's recommended to administer one dose of nirsevimab during or just before the RSV season.

  • Children aged 8 to 19 months who are entering their second RSV season and are at an elevated risk of severe illness should receive one dose.

Another product, palivizumab, is given through monthly injections during the RSV season and has been utilised to prevent RSV-related diseases. It is intended for children under 24 months with specific conditions that place them at a high risk of severe RSV. Children who have received nirsevimab should not receive palivizumab. However, if your child didn't complete all palivizumab doses, they might be eligible for nirsevimab. Children who received palivizumab in their first season can receive nirsevimab in their second season if they meet the eligibility criteria.

RSV symptoms in babies

 

Cold: Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

 

  • Cold symptoms may include:

  • Runny nose

  • Cough (dry or wet sounding)

  • Fussiness

  • Poor feeding

  • Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher)

  • Sneezing

  • Congestion

Bronchiolitis: Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

 

Symptoms of RSV may encompass common cold signs and also involve:

  • Rapid breathing

  • Nostril flaring and head movements while breathing

  • Rhythmic grunting during breaths

  • Abdominal breathing, noticeable rib and/or lower neck retractions

  • Wheezing

 

Call your paediatrician right away if your child has any:

  • Symptoms of bronchiolitis (as previously mentioned)

  • Signs of dehydration (fewer than one wet diaper every 8 hours)

  • Pauses or difficulty in breathing

  • A grey or blue discolouration of the tongue, lips, or skin

  • A significant decrease in activity and alertness

Additionally, some children with RSV may have an elevated risk of developing a bacterial infection like an ear infection. In such cases, reach out to your doctor if your child experiences:

  • Symptoms that either worsen or do not begin to improve after seven days

  • The presence of a fever (with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher) in children younger than three months (12 weeks) of age

  • A fever repeatedly rising above 104°F, regardless of the child's age

  • Complaints of poor sleep, fussiness, chest pain, or any signs of ear problems such as ear tugging or ear drainage.

Paediatricians diagnose colds or bronchiolitis in children through symptom assessment and a physical examination. In some cases, they may conduct a nasal swab test to identify the presence of RSV or another virus. Additionally, they might consider a chest x-ray or oxygen saturation test to assess lung congestion. However, it's important to note that these tests are often unnecessary because most children tend to recover without complications, and there is no specific treatment for RSV.

 

How to help your child with mild RSV feel better.

There is no specific treatment for RSV, and medications like steroids and antibiotics are ineffective against it.

To provide comfort to your child during an RSV infection, you can take similar measures as you would for a severe cold:

  • Use nasal saline and gentle suction to clear the nose, promoting easier breathing and feeding.

  • Employ a cool-mist humidifier to help disperse mucus and facilitate easier breathing.

  • Ensure your child receives plenty of fluids and frequent feedings to maintain hydration. Infants with RSV may have difficulty feeding due to breathing issues, so it's advisable to clear their nasal passages before breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. For breastfed babies, supplementing with water or formula is generally unnecessary. If breastfeeding directly is challenging, expressing breastmilk into a cup or bottle can be an alternative.

  • To manage low-grade fevers, consider using acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children older than six months. However, it's essential to avoid aspirin and cough and cold medications.

It's worth noting that both children and adults can contract RSV multiple times, even during a single season. Often, subsequent infections tend to be less severe than the initial ones.

 

Other ways to help prevent RSV

  • Vaccination: Ensure your children are current on their immunisations, including annual flu and COVID shots for the entire family. Adults over 60 years old can also consider getting the RSV vaccine. Additionally, getting vaccinated with Tdap, which protects against whooping cough, is crucial for adults in close contact with infants.

 

  • Limit Exposure: Reduce your baby's exposure to crowds, other children, and individuals with colds. It's advisable to keep sick children at home from school or childcare facilities and teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes.

 

  • Hand Hygiene: Emphasise regular handwashing with soap and water, ensuring that hands are scrubbed for at least 20 seconds. Encourage children to practice good hand hygiene throughout the year.

 

  • Maintain a Germ-Free Environment: Regularly disinfect objects and surfaces in your home to minimise the risk of infection. Also, avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke or other harmful substances.

 

  • Breastfeeding: If possible, feed your baby breastmilk, as it contains unique antibodies to help prevent and combat infections.

 

  • Stay Informed: Medical research continually advances, and scientists are exploring new options to prevent and treat RSV. In the meantime, take comfort that most people recover well from RSV infections.

These proactive steps can significantly reduce the risk of RSV and other respiratory illnesses in your child and family.

If you need to consult a doctor online, Mobi Doctor is here to assist you. With convenient virtual healthcare services, you can receive medical advice and guidance from the comfort of your home. Your health and well-being are just a click away.

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