Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Children

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is very common and causes symptoms such as trouble breathing. It is very infectious, and almost all kids get infected with it by the time they are two years old. Babies born prematurely or with existing heart, lung, or immune system problems are more at risk of developing severe symptoms. 

Read on to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children. 

What are the symptoms of RSV in children? 

The symptoms of RSV are very similar to the common cold, and in many cases, you may not even know that your child has RSV. The symptoms usually last anywhere from one week to three weeks and include: 

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Cough 
  • Sneezing 

In kids younger than three years old, the virus can get into the lungs, causing respiratory issues such as: 

  • A cough that gets worse
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble feeding and drinking 

Babies younger than six months old may not display any cold-like symptoms. However, if you notice that they seem irritable, have no interest in playing, and have changes in their breathing, they may have RSV. 

If you notice your child having any issues with their breathing, is showing signs of dehydration, or their symptoms are getting worse, contact your doctor for treatment because RSV can sometimes cause more severe conditions such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis.  

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Treatment in Littleton

What causes RSV in children?  

RSV is highly infectious, and it quickly spreads when you come in contact with someone who has the virus. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they send droplets containing the virus into the air, which you can breathe in. It may also get onto toys, doorknobs, surfaces, and clothes, quickly spreading around schools and daycare centers.  

The virus is usually more active between fall and spring. 

How can I protect my child from RSV?

It can be challenging to prevent your child from getting RSV, especially if they spend time around other children at daycare centers, kindergarten, or school. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk. 

The first thing you can do is get your child vaccinated against RSV. This is available for babies up to 8 months old. It is highly recommended that all babies at risk of severe RSV get regular shots of palivizumab during RSV season. Your doctor may offer you an RSV vaccine while you are pregnant if you are due to give birth during RSV season. 

Regular handwashing, avoiding taking your baby into crowded areas during the RSV season, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces in the home all reduce the risk of your child getting an RSV infection.  

Breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of severe RSV infection in babies. 

How is RSV treated? 

Most cases of RSV cause mild symptoms, and there is no specific medical treatment. Providing children with plenty of fluids and rest will help their bodies fight off the infection.  

If they have a fever, you can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for kids older than six months old. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on the best medicine for your child based on age.   

Next steps 

Home treatment will help many kids recover from the virus in no time. However, some children with RSV will require medical treatment, especially if they are at risk from severe RSV or the virus causes pneumonia.  

If you need any advice or help, contact us today to speak to one of our friendly board-certified pediatricians in Littleton.