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5 Things You Need to Know About the Unusual Summer Surge of RSV

Wednesday, July 14, 2021 8:29 AM

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common viral illness that typically spikes during the winter months. This summer doctors have noticed an unusual rise in the number of RSV cases, potentially in part caused by pandemic restrictions beginning to ease.

RSV Baby

Andrew Johnson, MD, NorthShore Pediatrics, said “for most children, RSV will run its course like a normal cold, however, some children (and especially young babies) can be more severely affected and/or develop pneumonia. This is why it’s so important to monitor your child’s symptoms and discuss any worsening symptoms with their doctor.”

Here, Dr. Johnson highlights five things you need to know about RSV.

RSV typically presents with normal cold symptoms.
Children with RSV can usually expect symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, cough, mild sore throat, fever, and fatigue.

In babies, the symptoms can sometimes be worse. Babies will often also experience fussiness or crankiness, difficulty sleeping, and poor feeding or eating.

Sometimes, RSV can also cause wheezing or difficulty breathing. If you notice these symptoms, please call your child’s doctor or seek medical care immediately.

Doctors can diagnose RSV in their office.
Sometimes the diagnosis of RSV requires a specific test, which can be done at the doctor’s office. However, often doctors can determine the diagnosis just through an examination of the child.

RSV, COVID-19, and the common cold can look identical.
RSV, COVID-19, and the common cold can all cause the same set of symptoms. If a child is presenting with worsening symptoms of RSV, COVID-19, and/or the common cold, the best way to ensure their safety is to visit their doctor’s office to be assessed and tested (if necessary.)

RSV does not require antibiotics, but there are ways to treat the symptoms at home.
RSV usually resolves by itself and, because it is a virus, should not be treated with antibiotics. To help keep your child safe and make them more comfortable at home you can:

  • Suction their nose and use nasal saline drops to improve congestion (for use with sick babies)
  • Prop up the head of their bed with pillows to improve breathing and help them sleep
  • Use Tylenol or Ibuprofen to reduce fevers and keep them feeling comfortable (consult their physician for correct dosing before administering any new medications)
  • Encourage them to drink a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration (this is always important when kids, or adults, are sick!)

Good hand hygiene is the best prevention tool for RSV.
Just like it can be difficult to prevent catching a cold, it is difficult to prevent catching RSV. However, the best way to decrease your child’s chances of getting sick is to make sure you and your children wash your hands frequently, with warm water and soap, for at least 20 seconds.