As the weather gets colder, illnesses start appearing including RSV. It's a common illness among infants and the elderly but for some can be very serious and require hospitalization.
The frustrating thing about RSV and a lot of these respiratory viruses is there's no effective treatment to kill it or shorten the course Dr. Jeremy Granger is a pediatrician with UnityPoint Health. "Even without knowing for sure that it's RSV. The things to look out for are the same things you would look for in general with any respiratory virus, primarily, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, labored breathing, and signs of dehydration."
Dr. Granger has been seeing a rise in cases of RSV in Siouxland over the last few weeks. "About two weeks ago, it seemed to really pick up for us," he said. "September we saw a lot of just regular respiratory viruses and hand, foot and mouth. And then the last two to three weeks we're seeing RSV, influenza, Rhinovirus which is kind of always around. And then for the last two weeks a lot of para-influenza virus and adenovirus."
Dr. Granger says most babies with RSV can be treated at home with nasal saline, suction, and Tylenol. Some infants might do well with a nebulizer or a breathing treatment, but that's not the case for all.
"Sometimes we will use breathing treatments, but not all children need breathing treatments and in fact, sometimes it can make it worse," Dr. Granger said. "So if your kid is breathing comfortably, even if they have a little bit of wheeze, many times we will not do any medicine because you know, we first want to do no harm."
"When we see children in clinic, we're making sure that they're breathing comfortably and that their oxygen is good," he continued, "but we don't routinely order x-rays. And those are national guidelines that come from national studies that have been done."
For babies with a fever, Dr. Granger says sometimes a high and fluctuating fever is a good sign.
"Fevers can make you feel uncomfortable. It will make your breathing hard and heavy and make your heart beat fast, but it's also a way that our body uses antibodies to kill off viruses," he said. "But if your child's 101-1-2 and they don't seem in much discomfort, you can let them simmer at that temperature. The body will bring that temperature back down and they'll cycle up and down every few hours. And that's the nature of fever. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's kind of like Last Man Standing. Our cells can tolerate temps around 106 without damage and viral particles start to kind of break down the protein at higher temps."
But if the fever does get too high, it's best to see a doctor. "If they have a fever, and they're uncomfortable, treat it. If they're over 104-105, they probably need to be seen."
When it comes to nighttime care, have your child sleep on their back, or even in your arms, because nights can be scariest for parents. "So nighttime is the worst and generally days 3-5 are going to be your worst nights with RSV. So if you've made it past those nights, you're usually on the downhill slide."
During the winter months, it's also not uncommon for kids to have several viruses at one time. 'And it's not uncommon to find them positive for three to five viruses all at the same time," said Dr. Granger. "We call it viral stalking. You just get one illness after another."
Dr. Granger says RSV is so common, it's almost impossible to avoid. "With RSV, you're probably not going to avoid it. Everybody gets it at some point and adults can get it too."
"If you've had a cold through the winter, you probably had it so I wouldn't let the name scare anyone too much. Just pay attention to the symptoms and the child in front of you. And if your guts telling you it doesn't look right, bring them in and we'll take care of her from there. But everybody under the age of two gets RSV at least once so even if you don't know that your child had it, they probably did at least once through the winter."
Those who have RSV, even if they don't know it, can still shed the virus from 8 days to three weeks which makes this virus so contagious for everyone from infants to adults.
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