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Revisiting RSV

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis which is an infection that affects the small, branching tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

Revisiting RSV

As predicted by a recent blog a global immunodeficiency will result in a more severe flu season this year but there are other viruses that can rear their ugly heads, too.

What is RSV?

RSV stands for "respiratory syncytial virus." It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis which is an infection that affects the small, branching tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When these tubes are infected, they get swollen and full of mucus. That makes it hard to breathe. Unfortunately, the virus mostly affects children younger than 2 years of age. In most children, bronchiolitis caused by the virus goes away on its own. But sometimes, medical intervention is necessary.

The usual symptoms are stuffy or runny nose, mild cough, fever (temperature higher than 38°C), and decreased appetite. If these get worse and breathing is faster than normal, or pauses between breaths are longer than 15 seconds, or the baby has a hard time drinking or eating, you should see a doctor. If you hear a whistling sound, otherwise known as wheezing, the child should be taken to the doctor. The usual duration of illness is a week or two. Other symptoms to watch out for are:

  • The skin and muscles between your child's ribs or below your child's ribcage look like they are caving in
  • Your child's nostrils flare (get bigger) when they take a breath
  • Your baby is younger than 3 months and has a fever (temperature greater than 38°C).
  • Your child is older than 3 months and has a fever (temperature greater than 38°C) for more than 3 days.
  • Your baby has fewer wet diapers than normal.

Our doctors will be able to tell if they have bronchiolitis based on their symptoms. In some cases, we might do tests to figure out the cause. This can tell us if your child has RSV or another viral infection like the flu or Covid-19.

How is bronchiolitis treated?

The main treatments for bronchiolitis are aimed at making sure that your child is getting enough oxygen. To do that, the doctor might need to suction the mucus from your child's nose or give your child moist air or oxygen to breathe.

We will probably not offer antibiotics. That's because bronchiolitis is caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not work on viruses.

Is there anything I can do on my own to help my child feel better?

Yes. Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure your child gets enough fluids.
  • Use a humidifier in the room where your child sleeps.
  • If your child is uncomfortable because of fever, you can give over-the-counter medicines. Be sure to read instructions carefully. Never give aspirin to a child younger than 18 years old.
  • Remove the mucus from your child's nose with a suction bulb, or a vacuum mucus sucker.
  • If your child is older than 1 year, feed them warm, clear liquids to soothe the throat and to help loosen mucus.
  • Prop your child's head up on pillows, if they are over 1 year old. (Do not use pillows for a child younger than 1 year.)
  • Sleep in the same room as your child, so that you know right away if they start having trouble breathing.
  • Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke near your child.

You can help prevent infections from spreading if you:

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Teach your child to cover their mouth when they cough, or cough into their elbow.
  • Do not share glasses, cups, or utensils.
  • Clean things that are touched a lot, such as counters, sinks, faucets, doorknobs, phones, remotes, and light switches.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Make sure that your child gets all of the recommended vaccines, including those for the flu and Covid-19.

Any questions before booking an appointment?

If you are unsure which doctor to see or what examination you require, we are here to help!

Simply request a free callback from one of our colleagues, who will help you find the right specialist based on your specific issue.

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