Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms. Almost all children will have been infected with this virus before their second birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most cases of RSV are mild, but illness can be severe, leading to hospitalization and/or death. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children under 1 year of age in the United States.
For the second year in a row, we are seeing RSV cases earlier than usual. Jayme Sibley, PA-C, medical director of our Urgent Care, shares what parents and caregivers should know about this seasonal virus.
People of any age can get an RSV infection. Those at high risk for severe infection with RSV include premature infants, young children with congenital heart or lung disease, children and adults with weakened immune systems, and older adults with underlying heart or lung disease. Most adults who contract RSV will only experience mild symptoms that are usually dismissed and go undiagnosed.
Daycare and school settings are hotbeds for transmission of RSV. The contagious period can last anywhere between 3 to 8 days, however some infants and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus for as long as 4 weeks. RSV is spread through:
Onset of symptoms occurs within 4 to 6 days after exposure, and usually include:
In young infants, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, or difficulty breathing.
For most people with RSV, symptoms will resolve on their own in a week or two. There is no vaccine against RSV, but over the counter medication such as fever reducers can help to relieve symptoms. If your child has difficulty breathing, get medical attention immediately, as RSV can cause more serious illness requiring hospitalization.
It can be difficult to know what is causing those sniffles, sneezes, and coughs this time of year. Innovative Care offers RSV, flu and COVID testing daily at our urgent care and COVID, Cold & Flu clinics. Schedule an appointment in advance, or simply walk-in to see a medical provider when you need answers. Both locations see pediatric and adult patients.