Symptoms of RSV in Babies and Children

RSV is a highly contagious that afflicts babies that parents should be aware of. The infection is respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a form of bronchitis that most children get before age two. The disease is a dangerous one because the symptoms of RSV resemble those of a common cold. Even though most children will recover from it, RSV can develop into pneumonia, which can be a life-threatening illness in some kids. Babies with serious health problems can be in danger from it.

The virus can spread quickly through schools, childcare centers, and other places frequented by children. Older kids often catch it and spread it to younger siblings. Epidemics of RSV often occur during the school year, particularly in the winter, when kids are inside.

What Are The Symptoms of RSV?

Recognizing the symptoms for RSV can help parents understand and deal with the disease. Something to remember is that RSV symptomsusually appear between four to six days after exposure.

The symptoms of RSV include the following:

  • A runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wheezing
  • Irritability
  • Decreased activity
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Parents of young infants need to pay close attention because breathing problems can develop. If the infant has trouble breathing, parents should seek medical attention immediately even if they have to call an ambulance or go to the emergency room. Symptoms of breathing problems can include:

•    The baby becomes lethargic

•    The baby starts breathing rapidly

•    The baby’s lips or fingernails develop a blue tint

The cold-like symptoms of RSV will usually disappear after about two weeks. Parents should also seek medical attention if they see these RSV symptoms:

  • A high fever
  • Thick mucus or discharge coming out the nose
  • Yellow, green, or grey mucus when the child coughs
  • The child becomes very grouchy or irritable
  • The child refuses to eat (Be very worried if a baby refuses to breastfeed)
  • The baby has cool, dry skin, which is a sign of dehydration
  • The baby’s diaper remains dry for more than six hours, which he or she is dehydrated and not urinating
  • The baby appears to be crying but produces no tears

If any of these problems develop, you should take the baby to the doctor as soon as possible. If a doctor is not available, you should consider going to a hospital or emergency room. According to CDC: In most cases, even among those who need to be hospitalized, hospitalization usually only lasts a few days, and full recovery from illness occurs in about 1 to 2 weeks.

What Causes RSV?

RSV is caused by respiratory syncytial virus, a pathogen that usually enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Parents and others can infect the baby with it by simply touching him or her. It can be spread by infected surfaces and contaminated clothing, food, and drink.

Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for RSV, but doctors have some treatments for it. The good news is that most babies will quickly develop immunity to the disease.

How to Treat RSV

If your child develops RSV symptoms, there is not much you can do. The main step parents can take is to keep the child as comfortable as possible and let the infection wear off.

1.      Rest and Hydration

Simply let the baby rest, and provide plenty of fluids to drink. This can be difficult because the baby might not feel like drinking. If possible, keep the baby breastfeeding because breast milk can strengthen immunity.

2.      Humidifier

You might need to use a humidifier, particularly in winter, because winter air and forced air heating can dry out the airways and make mucus worse. If you use a cool-mist humidifier, you will have to clean it daily with bleach to prevent mold. A hot water or steam humidifier is more sanitary, but you will have to keep it away from kids to prevent scalding. Note: You probably will not have to use a humidifier if you have steam heat in your home.

3.      Using Drugs with Care

Only use drugs to treat the baby if the doctor says to do so because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration advises that children under two should never use cold medicine containing decongestants or antihistamines, without seeking the advice of a healthcare provider. Never give the baby aspirin because that is associated with a life-threatening condition called Reye’s syndrome. You can give babies over a year old children’s pain relievers that do not contain aspirin if you follow the instructions on the passage. You can use a bulb syringe to add a little saline solution to the baby’s nose to prevent mucus.

4.      Staying Away from Irritants

If possible, keep the baby away from cigarette smoke, wood fires, and chemical fumes like fresh paint. These can irritate the baby’s respiratory system and make the RSV symptoms worse.

How to Prevent RSV

Parents can avoid RSV infection by practicing simple cleanliness and following a few basic steps. These steps include:

  • Wash your hands several times a day because this is the main way RSV spreads. In particular, wash your hands after you change diapers, prepare food, or go outside. Make sure older kids wash their hands too.
  • Keep the baby’s room and the areas where he or she plays or eats clean. Try to wipe down all surfaces with a strong disinfectant, such as bleach, on a regular basis.
  • Bathe the baby regularly.
  • Wash the baby’s clothes and bed linens regularly in hot water. A temperature of 250° Fahrenheit (121° Celsius) will kill almost all viruses, so make sure the washing machine is set on hot. It is also a good idea to use bleach on white clothes and linens.
  • Make sure that you wash and sterilize everything the baby eats and drinks from, particularly bottles. Put them in the dishwasher, and set it on sterilization if possible.
  • If possible, keep people with visible cold or flu symptoms away from the baby.
  • Consider not taking the baby to public places like shopping, school, work, daycare, or worship services if you hear about an RSV epidemic in your area.

You should also pay attention to the news and the word on the street in your area. If you hear about an RSV epidemic, it might be a good idea to take a few additional precautions, particularly with children with serious health problems.