Wednesday, November 9, 2011

RSV Season is Here

If you had asked me five years ago if I'd heard of RSV I would have shrugged by shoulders. RSV? Is that some special SUV? Then I had children and suddenly I did know what RSV was. RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus is similar to the common cold, the symptoms are very similar, how it is transmitted is the same and by the age of two practically all children have been infected with RSV.

Babies ages 2 to 7 months of age have the highest incidence of RSV infection affecting the lower respiratory tractLater reinfections are usually less severe than the first infection. While most children get over it in the same way they recover from a cold and within one to two weeks, some children, especially the very young, can be severely infected.  It is a common way that children may develop more serious respiratory illnesses such as broncholitis or pneumonia and while most infants will not require hospitalization, RSV accounts for 150,000 hospitalizations of children every year.

What does RSV look like? Symptoms:
-coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, decrease in appetite
- may cause irritability
- difficulty breathing and/or wheezing
-decrease in appetite

RSV is highly contagious, spreading easily and is near impossible to avoid. Babies who are in child care facilities, or have an older sibling in child care or at school, or are in public places a lot are more at risk for catching RSV. Sharing food, touching objects that are contaminated with the virus, and not washing hands can lead to RSV infection.
With a preschooler and an infant in the house we're washing our hands constantly, for 15 to 20 seconds with soap and water, but it is still difficult to contain as it persists on surfaces. Teaching and also practicing the sneeze or cough into the elbow, or sneezing like an elephant as my preschooler refers to it,  can aid in lowering transmission of respiratory diseases such as RSV. 
Our TMC Health Encyclopedia shares this information about when to seek medical help:
When to call a doctor:
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if your child is having difficulty breathing, indicated by:
  • Breathing very fast (more than 60 times a minute)
  • Making a grunting noise. 
  • Being unable to speak, cry or make sounds, sometimes with drooling.
  • Flaring nostrils or lifting the shoulders when inhaling.
  • Having a gray mottled, or blue color to the skin (look for skin color changes in the fingernail beds, lips, or earlobes).
  • Wheezing that lasts over 1 hour in a baby younger than 3 months who also appears sick.   
See your doctor right away if your baby or child has moderate difficulty breathingindicated by:

  • Breathing 40-60 times a minute
  • Tiring quickly during feeding. The child either stops eating or sucks in air to catch a breath. The child loses interest in eating because of the effort involved. 
  • Using the stomach muscles when breathing. 
  • Having unusual color. The child's face, hands, and feet are pale to slightly gray or lacelike purple and pale (mottled), but the tongue, gums and lips remain pink
See your doctor if your child shows signs of a lower respiratory infection, indicated by:
  • Wheezing
  • Appearing extremely tired
  • Showing little interest in food or surroundings.
  • Showing signs of an ear infection, such as irritability, difficulty sleeping, and tugging on or rubbing the ear. 
  • Having a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher when younger than 3 months old (This temperature should be taken rectally. Underarm temperatures are lower than rectal temperatures. 
Call a doctor if your child:
  • Breathes slightly faster than normal and seems to be getting worse. Most healthy children breathe less than 40 times a minute. 
  • Has cold symptoms that become severe or other problems arise.
Our Interactive Health Symptom Checker is a useful tool if you are unsure about what actions to take, although it does not substitute for actual medical advice.

Whether it is RSV, Influenza or the common cold lets try to mitigate the impact of these viruses this season with plenty of proper hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, disinfecting contaminated surfaces  and minimizing exposure to infected older children or adults. Be healthy, be safe. 


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