RSV season brings along a potentially serious infection for young infants. You’ll need to know what danger signs to look for and when to seek immediate medical attention.
Why RSV can be serious
Respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, is a highly contagious seasonal virus that can lead to symptoms similar to the common cold in adults and most children. In some infants, however, RSV can lead to serious complications and can be life-threatening.
RSV is a very common cold-weather virus that is easily spread by sneezing, coughing and touching — unfortunately for us, the virus can live for a couple of hours on surfaces. From November until March, RSV is shared among friends, family members and strangers, and in families where children attend school, it can be brought home and spread to the youngest family member. In most people, it causes relatively minor cold-like symptoms, but in some babies it can be very serious.
RSV expert Dr. Paul Checchia, medical director, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Texas Children’s Hospital, shares while the virus normally doesn’t cause a problem in most babies, older children and adults, sometimes it can lead to serious complications in certain babies. “While the virus affects nearly 100 percent of babies before the age of two, certain babies are at an increased risk of developing severe RSV disease,” he said. “This include babies born prematurely (those born before 37 weeks gestation), with chronic lung disease or with certain types of heart disease.“
What to look for
While RSV can start out acting like the common cold, Dr. Checchia warns parents to closely monitor their babies if they are ill, especially those little ones who are at greater risk of complications. “If left unattended, RSV can result in more alarming symptoms than those resembling the common cold,” he explained.
Symptoms of severe RSV infection include severe coughing or wheezing, difficulty breathing, gasping breaths, blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails, high fever, difficulty feeding or decreased intake of liquids and unusual fatigue.
What to do
If you suspect that your baby is suffering from RSV and are worried about worsening symptoms, Dr. Checchia urges parents to not hesitate when considering when to seek care. Phone your pediatrician for a same-day appointment if you’re concerned, of if it’s after office hours, consider taking your child into an urgent care center or head to the emergency room. “Especially in high-risk babies, mild RSV symptoms can quickly escalate into a serious infection, requiring hospitalization,” he shared. “So it's especially important for parents of babies at high risk for RSV to seek immediate medical attention if they are concerned.”
When in doubt, it’s always better to take your baby in to be seen — err on the side of caution instead of trying to deal with a potentially life-threatening illness on your own.
For more information on RSV, you can visit www.RSVprotection.com.