In recent weeks we have seen an increase in young children with RSV. This is a virus that causes bronchiolitis in young children and severe colds in older children. Bronchiolitis is a viral infection that is like a typical cold with nasal congestion, fever, and cough but also includes mucous production and swelling in the lungs. This can lead to faster breathing, increased mucous in the lungs and sometimes wheezing. The peak activity is often January through April.
The virus is pretty common. All children by preschool have likely had the virus at least once.
Children most at risk include:
- Young children under six months old.
- Children with other chronic illnesses (especially respiratory and cardiac)* Children and toddlers with a history of asthma
There is no vaccine for RSV so the prevention strategy is same as prevention of common colds. Avoiding ill persons, crowded places, and lot of hand washing can decrease transmission of the virus.
There is no specific treatment against the virus itself. Treatment is primarily supportive like a cold. This includes using nasal saline to help clear nose of young children. Increasing humidity in the room to also help a child cope with the mucous. If a child has history of wheezing or asthma than asthma medications, like inhalers are sometimes used.
Antibiotics are not helpful against RSV but vigilance for ear infections is prudent since ear infections occur in about one in four children with RSV.
Hospitalization may be needed for a child who is working very hard to breathe, needs oxygen support or getting dehydrated from not being able to take in enough fluids. Many times a child will be seen daily in the office to measure weight and asses their breathing.
Hope you and your families stay healthy this winter. Keep up that hand washing!