As the weather gets colder, your little one may battle the symptoms of a cold. If so, be aware: what appears to be an ordinary cold could be more serious. Your child may have respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
RSV is a highly contagious disease that affects approximately 300,000 children in the United States each year. It causes inflammation of the airways and increased secretions, making it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. RSV is the leading cause of infant pneumonia and childhood respiratory infections.
RSV outbreaks typically occur during late fall appearing in October, and peaking in January and February. Because of Aspen’s high altitude, children in Aspen have more difficulty with the virus than kids in other parts of the country.
People of all ages can contract RSV, and most recover easily and dismiss it as a cold. However, babies and toddlers are particularly susceptible to the virus because they have small airways and undeveloped immune systems.
RSV symptoms are similar to those of a cold or flu. It’s important to monitor all your child’s symptoms, paying particular attention to how he or she is breathing. The telltale symptom of RSV is difficulty breathing. Other common RSV symptoms include:
- runny nose
- extreme fussiness
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- fever of 101 or higher
- marked change in behavior
Children with RSV who are admitted to AVH are often placed in oxygen mist tents to improve their breathing and reduce wheezing. If a child also has pneumonia and/or an ear infection, which is common in RSV cases, antibiotics will be administered. In addition, warm fluids, rest, and a cool-mist humidifier may also provide some relief. A bronchodilator, a medication that reduces bronchial spasms and opens airways, is another possible treatment.
Close contact with a sibling or parent is often how infants become infected with RSV. Many children are exposed to the virus at day-care centers as well. Making sure your child receives proper rest and plenty of fluids may aid in prevention. And, since the virus is easily transmitted by touch, frequent hand-washing is extremely important, especially before picking up a baby.
Should your child show symptoms of RSV, don’t assume it’s just a cold. Seek medical care early, especially if your child isn’t breathing normally. Early intervention can help protect your child from serious complications.