It’s about time for RSV — respiratory syncytial virus — to make the rounds again in North Texas. In the U.S., RSV is most common in fall, winter and early spring. Infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are typically at higher risk.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that in one year, RSV was responsible for the following in children under 5 years of age:
- 7 million doctor visits
- 638,000 ER and hospital outpatient visits
- 86,000 hospitalizations
Data from the CDC shows that in adults over 65 years of age, each year RSV causes, on average:
- 177,000 hospitalizations
- 14,000 deaths
RSV — really spreadable virus.
RSV is highly contagious. Your chances of catching RSV are about as high as that of catching the common cold. That’s because RSV is one of the causes of the common cold. It also causes bronchitis, pneumonia, croup, middle ear infections and asthma.
The reason that RSV can be so dangerous for infants and older adults is because it affects the ability to breathe. Symptoms of bronchiolitis and pneumonia include inflamed, congested airways filled with mucus, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
At the highest risk of getting a severe RSV infection are babies born prematurely and those with lung, heart or other chronic illnesses, according to information released by the March of Dimes during RSV Awareness Month.
Fred Johnson, DO, associate medical director for pediatric emergency services at Medical City Children’s Hospital, talks about how to recognize when a child needs emergency care for a respiratory illness.
How to prevent RSV.
RSV is spread through droplet transmission. It’s passed from person to person through coughs and sneezes or from contact with surfaces containing the virus, such as hands, clothing, toys, food and more. There is currently no vaccine to prevent RSV.
The best defense against RSV and its complications is to:
- Wash your hands often and teach children to do the same
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay away from sick people and keep them away from infants
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and items to remove germs
- Stay home when you’re sick and keep kids home from school and day care when they have a bug
How to treat RSV and what the color of your mucus means.
Matt Bush, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Dallas and Medical City Children’s Hospital, says that about 95% of upper respiratory conditions start off as viral infections, which aren’t treatable with antibiotics.
Treat the symptoms of a viral respiratory infection with:
- Plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and thin mucus
- A cool-mist humidifier to help clear stuffy noses and reduce coughing
- Saline nose drops (try a bulb syringe to clear your baby’s nose)
- Non-aspirin pain and fever medications as needed
If you or someone in your family experiences breathing problems or other complications from RSV, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.