Learn How to Protect Infants and Young Children Against RSV

Annual epidemics of RSV occur from November to April. Here are some tips to protect your child during RSV season.

November 22, 2011 10:03 a.m.

There’s a lot of talk about RSV during the winter months and people aren’t quite sure what it really is or how bad it can be.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, is highly contagious and is the most common cause of serious respiratory infection in infants and young children.“We are coming into RSV season and knowing how children love to share germs, it’s no wonder they catch the virus,” Registered Respiratory Therapist-Neonatal Pediatric Specialist Brent Ryherd said. “Kids just don’t practice hand hygiene so infection is almost unavoidable.”

Annual epidemics occur from November to April, and virtually all children are infected by age 2.

For most healthy children, the symptoms of RSV resemble the common cold and include runny nose, coughing and low-grade fever. However, signs of more serious RSV infection may include difficulty or rapid breathing, wheezing, irritability and restlessness and poor appetite.

The most common route for transmission is via direct or personal contact with an infected person, such as kissing, sharing drinks and sharing utensils. RSV accounts for more than 125,000 infant and child hospitalizations each year, and unfortunately about two percent of the high-risk infants die.

Here are some tips to help protect your child during RSV season:

• Make sure everyone washes his or her hands before touching a baby.
• Keep baby away from anyone who has a cold, fever or runny nose.
• Keep baby away from crowded areas like shopping malls.
• Keep children away from tobacco smoke. Parents should not expose their children, especially infants, to secondhand tobacco smoke, which increases the risk of complications from severe respiratory infections.

However, RSV affects more than just children. It accounts for more than 177,500 elderly and high-risk adult hospitalizations every year, at a cost exceeding $1 billion. It is estimated that it also accounts for an estimated 14,000 elderly and high-risk adult deaths annually.

RSV symptoms in healthy adults are generally milder: stuffy nose, cough and chest congestion mimicking a “chest cold,” but it is much more severe and lasts longer. “Good hand washing is the key in preventing the spread of RSV,” Ryherd said. It is important not to take children to visit grandparents if they have symptoms of RSV, especially if the grandparents have a chronic lung illness such as COPD.

For more information call Ryherd, Respiratory Therapy Supervisor at SBLHC, at 238-3522.

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