When discussing respiratory diseases in infants and young children, there is a wide range of respiratory-related illnesses that parents need to know about to keep their child healthy. From the less concerning common cold to the very dangerous respiratory distress syndrome, it can be difficult to assess what illness your child is experiencing. Breathe easy, parents; we are here to help you.
With so many various types of respiratory diseases, we will focus on one in particular: Respiratory Syncytial Virus, more commonly referred to as RSV. This is a viral infection that, while common, can be dangerous and parents need to be on the lookout for RSV, especially in infants and young children.
What is RSV?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV “is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults” (2020). Generally speaking, RSV is perfectly manageable and easily treated. However, as mentioned before, for infants and the elderly, contracting RSV can be serious. Parents of infants and young children need to be more attentive in their care. RSV is highly contagious; make sure to keep friends, relatives, or childcare providers away from your child should you suspect they have RSV and prevent your child from exposure.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
Symptoms for RSV generally set in four to six days after exposure (Mayo Clinic 2021). As mentioned before, the symptoms for RSV resemble that of a cold and include (Mayo Clinic 2021):
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
Regarding fevers in infants, please note that the guideline for fevers changes for children by age. You can learn more about fevers in infants and young children here.
Sings of a more severe case of RSV will include any of the above symptoms as well as:
- Rapid breathing
- Struggling to breathe
- Bluish skin color (as a result of lack of oxygen)
With any of the more severe symptoms, contact your doctor immediately and get medical assistance. Especially if your child is 12 months or younger, it is critical to get help immediately. RSV can lead to pneumonia which can complicate your child’s health conditions (Escoto 2019).
Can you prevent your child from being infected from RSV?
In short, no; there isn’t a way for parents to completely eliminate the risk that their child will be exposed to RSV. However, parents can make smart decisions about reducing the risk that their child will be exposed to RSV. There are three things parents can do to help reduce the risk for contracting RSV:
- Limit contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms. As mentioned before, some symptoms for RSV are very mild and may seem mild. However, just because one person has mild symptoms doesn’t mean the person they spread the disease to will also have mild symptoms. An adult with mild symptoms can pass RSV to an infant who is far more at risk and likely to develop more severe symptoms. Tell friends, family, and caregivers to limit contact with your child when they are sick.
- Wash hands and practice basic hygiene habits. One of the more positive side effects since the Covid-19 pandemic is that personal hygiene habits have increased dramatically. Practicing basic habits like washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and disinfecting regularly can reduce the likelihood that your child will contract RSV.
- Monitor your child’s vitals. While this won’t necessarily prevent your child from contracting RSV, it will help you recognize early warning signs that they have RSV and get the treatment they need before conditions become severe. One way to monitor your child’s vitals is with a wearable baby monitor like the LoveyQ. This monitor can track vital signs like heart rate, breath rate, temperature, and sleeping patterns. These signs can alert parents to underlying problems that need to be addressed before they become problematic. Early detection is just as valuable as prevention.
RSV is something that, in all likelihood, every child will encounter at some point in their lifetime. However, the duration and severity of the condition are what parents need to be on the lookout for. As parents, we know how important your child’s health is, and we want you to have all the information you need to ensure your child is getting the care they need.
CDC. (2020, December 18). Learn about Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mayo Clinic. (2021, January 9). Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – Symptoms and causes.
Escoto, M. A. (2019, February). Respiratory Syncytial Virus (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. Kid’s Health.