RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus
is a virus that causes respiratory illness in young children. This virus can lead to pneumonia as it affects the bronchioles and alveoli, resulting in the production of excess mucus and a narrowing of the airways. The symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. It is spread through contact with infected bodily secretions, such as saliva and mucus. It is one of the most common viruses affecting babies and young children during rainy season.
The symptoms of RSV
are similar to the common cold, including fever (low fever in most cases), coughing, and sneezing. Parents should look out for the signs and symptoms of severe RSV infection, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing
- Bluish color of the skin
- Wheezing (caused by inflammation of the bronchioles and narrowing of the airways)
- Barking cough
Young and weak children, such as children who were born prematurely or who have an underlying condition such as heart or lung disease and asthma, are at an increased risk of severe infections that may lead to respiratory failure.
There is no specific treatment for RSV. Generally, systematic treatment is provided, including medication to relieve phlegmy coughing, medication to keep airways open, medication to reduce fever, and a nebulized bronchodilator. Patients who have difficulty breathing and have low blood oxygen may also require supportive care, including intravenous fluids, chest percussion, suction, humidified oxygen, and a nebulized bronchodilator. In severe cases, children may need the assistance of mechanical ventilation in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), until they recover.
In seriously ill patients, the complications of RSV include viral infections, such as influenza or mycoplasma, and bacterial infections. The doctor will choose the most appropriate treatment to prevent these infections.
Frequent hand washing can help prevent RSV. If a child develops RSV symptoms, the parents should keep their child away from other children to prevent the spread of the virus. Any infected children should stay away from the nursery or school for at least 1-2 weeks, until they have fully recovered. In some cases, even when RSV is cured, the child’s coughing may still persist for a period after.
By Dr. Prasong Pruksananonda, Pediatrician, Pediatric Infectious Disease, Children’s (Pediatrics) Center, Bumrungrad Hospital
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