Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that can affect the lungs. Having an RSV infection early in life can increase the risk of developing asthma. Additionally, an RSV infection can also worsen symptoms of asthma.
RSV is the
Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the lungs that doctors characterize by the narrowing and swelling of the airways. It is still unclear what causes its development, but it likely occurs due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Numerous studies suggest that infants requiring hospitalization for severe RSV infection early in life are at an increased risk of developing asthma or chronic wheezing later in childhood.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between RSV and asthma and how one affects the other.
Viral infections, such as RSV, adenovirus, and coronavirus, can cause the inception and worsening of asthma through different methods, including:
- increased serum immunoglobulin E levels
- epithelial (skin) damage or activation
- decreased antiviral responses
- changing host immune responses
- promotion of respiratory tract inflammation
- infection of the lower respiratory tract
Allergen sensitization is a significant risk factor relating to asthma inception, and severe RSV infection may contribute to the development of asthma through sensitivity to common allergens.
Similarly, those receiving hospitalization for RSV before the age of 2 years were
People with asthma may have more severe symptoms if they acquire an RSV infection. Evidence also notes that an RSV infection can worsen chronic health problems, such as asthma. For example, a person living with asthma may experience asthma attacks due to these infections.
Evidence notes that
- young infants aged 6 months and younger
- premature infants
- children younger than 2 with chronic diseases present at birth
- children with neuromuscular disorders, including those with difficulty swallowing and clearing mucus
- children with Down syndrome
- older adults aged 65 years and older
- adults with chronic heart or lung disease, such as those with asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- adults living in high altitudes
- adults with weak immune systems or immune problems
In most cases, an individual with an RSV infection will show symptoms within
- runny nose
- decrease in appetite
Apnea may be the initial symptom in infants younger than 6 months. Severe cases may present with the
- viral pneumonia
- hypoxia, which is when tissues and cells do not get enough oxygen to function correctly
- apnea, when breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep
- acute respiratory failure
However, severe cases may
Currently, there is no specific treatment for an RSV infection, although work is ongoing to develop vaccines and antiviral medications. An antiviral drug called ribavirin may have some activity against RSV. However, doctors no longer recommend it, except for people with severe immune system issues.
RSV infections and asthma can both affect the lungs. Having asthma puts a person at a higher risk of getting a severe RSV infection. Furthermore, those with asthma who acquire an RSV infection tend to experience worsening symptoms of asthma.
Additionally, research suggests that getting an RSV infection during early childhood can increase the risk of developing asthma later in life.