Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Although symptoms are usually mild and mimic the common cold in adults and older, healthy children, RSV can be severe in infants and young children with underlying health conditions. RSV is so prevalent that the most children will have been infected by the virus by age 2.

Rahul Bhatia, M.D., pediatric intensive care unit physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, explained:

“This is an extremely contagious virus, so it can easily be spread from one child to another in a school or home setting. We continue to see a large amount of kids being admitted to the hospital this year due to RSV.

Though it often peaks in winter, the virus may continue to affect communities through early spring.”

In infants under 1 year of age, RSV is the primary cause of bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the small airways in the lung), according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Bhatia said:

“Though younger children have a greater chance of being hospitalized due to the virus, any age group can be affected.”

At present, there is no vaccination against the virus. Hand washing is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading.

Bhatia, explained:

“RSV is easily spread by touching infected people and surfaces, so washing your child’s and your own hands often is the best way to prevent it from being spread.”

The majority of children and adults will recover from RSV in 1 to 2 weeks. Although individuals with the illness are usually contagious for around 3 to 8 days, people with a weak immune system can be contagious for up to 4 weeks.

Bhatia, said:

“If your school-age child has cold symptoms, it may be best to try to keep them away from younger brothers or sisters to avoid transmission.”

According to Bhatia, you should call your doctor if your child has the follow symptoms:

  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty breathing
  • nasal flaring
  • decreased urine output
  • or your child is not breathing properly

You should visit the emergency room if:

  • Your child stops breathing
  • Your child has a bluish color of the skin
  • or your child has difficulty breathing

Bhatia said:

“There are numerous viruses that can cause respiratory infections. The only way to know if it is RSV is to have testing done. RSV has been around for a while. It’s nothing new, just every once in a while we see a spike in cases and this happens to be one of those years.”

Written by Grace Rattue