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RSV in children: symptoms, treatment and what parents need to know

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An 8-month-old baby in September She came to Juanita Mora’s Chicago office with an infection the doctor hadn’t expected in two months: RSV.

Like his peers across the country, the allergist and immunologist treats young children with this cold-like virus long before the season starts.

“We’re seeing RSV infections become widespread across the country,” said Mora.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly all children get RSV at some point before they reach age 2. Most adults who catch it have a mild illness; It can be dangerous for the elderly, those with chronic heart or lung disease, or those with weakened immune systems. But RSV can be especially difficult for infants and children.

Mora, a volunteer medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association, says this is important to parents, caregivers and the nursery. employees should know what to watch out for with RSV, which means respiratory syncytial virus. So they know if a sick child can be treated at home or if they need to go to the hospital.

“The emergency room is overflowing with all these sick children, so we want parents to know that they can go to their pediatrician and get tested for RSV, the flu, or even Covid-19,” Mora said.

Here are some other things parents need to know with the rise of respiratory diseases.

For many, RSV causes a mild illness that can be managed at home.

On average, an infection lasts from five days to several weeks and usually goes away. The CDC says it went away on its own. Pediatricians say sometimes the cough can last up to four weeks.

Symptoms may look like a cold: runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. Young babies may just seem irritable or lethargic and have trouble breathing.

Not every child will have every potential RSV symptom.

D., assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. “Especially in toddlers, RSV infections are really hits or misses,” said Priya Soni.

She said parents should watch for any changes in behavior, including taking longer to eat or not being interested in food at all. The child may also develop a severe cough and some wheezing.

It’s also important to watch for signs that your child is having trouble breathing or breathing with their ribs or tummy – “symptoms that may overlap with many of the other viruses we’ve seen reappear,” Soni added.

It is good for parents to take a sick child to a pediatrician who can do tests to determine the cause, as it is not easy to tell the difference between respiratory diseases such as RSV and the flu, for example.

“You may need to take your baby to be evaluated sooner rather than later,” Soni said.

When it comes to RSV, parents should be especially cautious if their children are premature, newborn, children with weakened immune systems or neuromuscular disorders, and children under 2 years of age with chronic lung and heart conditions, the CDC says.

“Parents have to be really smart about any changes, such as in their activity and appetite, and then pay special attention to any signs of respiratory distress,” Soni says. Said.

Testing is important because the treatment for things like the flu and Covid-19 can differ.

As for the flu, there is no antiviral or specific treatment for RSV, and neither is there a vaccine. But if your child is sick, there are things you can do to help.

Fever and pain can be controlled with non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also make sure your child is drinking enough fluids.

“RSV can make kids very dehydrated, especially when we’re talking about babies, when they’re not eating or drinking,” Mora said. “When they stop eating or their urine output decreases, they don’t have wet diapers, which is a sign that they may need to go to the pediatrician or the emergency room.”

Talk to your pediatrician before giving your child over-the-counter cold medicines, which can sometimes contain ingredients that are not good for children.

Your pediatrician will check the child’s breathing rate – how fast they are breathing. and oxygen levels. If your child is very sick or at high risk of serious illness, the doctor may want him to go to the hospital.

“RSV can be super dangerous for some toddlers and toddlers, especially those younger than 2 years old,” Soni said.

Mora said difficulty breathing is a sign that a child is having trouble with this virus. RSV can develop into more serious diseases such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, which can lead to respiratory failure.

If you see a child’s chest rise and fall as they breathe, their cough doesn’t allow them to sleep, or is getting worse, “this could be a sign that they should seek help from or take them to their pediatrician. In the emergency room because then they may need supplemental oxygen or need nebulization therapy.”

CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen says this breathing difficulty, including a shaking head, an enlarged nose, or grunting, is one of the two main signs of trouble with any respiratory infection. The other is dehydration. “This is especially true for babies with nasal congestion. They may not be feeding.”

Most of the care provided by hospital staff will help with breathing.

“We provide supportive measures for RSV and these children with respiratory treatments including oxygen, IV fluids, and aspiration,” Soni said.

A thin tube may need to be inserted into their lungs to remove the mucus. A child may get extra oxygen through a mask or a tube attached to their nose. Some children may need to use an oxygen tent. Those who struggle a lot may need a ventilator.

Some babies may also need to be tube fed.

Doctors say the best way to prevent RSV infections is to teach children to cough and sneeze with a tissue or elbows instead of their hands. Also, try to keep frequently touched surfaces clean.

If a caregiver or older sibling is sick, Mora says they should wear masks around other people and wash their hands frequently.

And above all, if someone is sick – child or adult – they should stay at home so they don’t spread the disease.

There is monoclonal antibody therapy for children at highest risk of severe disease. It is not available to everyone, but it can protect the most vulnerable. It comes in the form of a shot that a child can take each month during the typical RSV season. Talk to your doctor about whether your child is eligible.