At Kids First Pediatrics, our top priority is the well-being of your little ones. Children can be susceptible to various illnesses, and one of the common concerns during the fall and winter months is respiratory infections. Among these infections, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) often mimics the symptoms of a simple cold. However, it's crucial for parents and caregivers to recognize when it's more than just a cold. This month we are featuring a very helpful article from Healthychildren.org.
RSV is a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system, particularly in young children. It can lead to symptoms similar to those of a cold, such as a runny or stuffy nose, cough, and mild fever. However, RSV can progress into a more severe respiratory illness, especially in infants and toddlers. This is why it's vital to be aware of the signs that indicate a potential RSV infection.
New ways to protect babies from RSV
Two new tools protect babies from severe illness during RSV season. You can choose RSV immunization during pregnancy, or your baby can be immunized after they are born. Most infants will likely only need protection from either the maternal RSV vaccine or infant immunization, but not both.
RSV vaccine during pregnancy
Pregnant people can receive the RSVpreF vaccine at 32 through 36 weeks of pregnancy if their baby will be born during RSV season. The vaccine reduces the risk of RSV hospitalization for babies by 57% in their first six months after birth.
RSV immunization for babies
For infants and some toddlers, an RSV immunization called nirsevimab can be given as an injection and may be included with or between your baby's routine immunizations. Nirsevimab has been shown to reduce the risk of both RSV-related hospitalizations and health care visits in infants by about 80%.
The shot works a little differently than a vaccine. It provides antibodies that start working to protect babies right away. The protection lasts for the duration of a typical RSV season.
RSV symptoms in babies
Typically, RSV causes cold symptoms, which may be followed by bronchiolitis or pneumonia. RSV symptoms are typically at their worst on days 3 through 5 of illness. Symptoms generally last an average of 7-14 days.
Watch this video from healthychildren.org on the signs of RSV in Babies
Call Kids First Pediatrics right away if your child has any:
Symptoms of bronchiolitis (listed above)
Symptoms of dehydration (fewer than 1 wet diaper every 8 hours)
Pauses or difficulty breathing
Gray or blue color to tongue, lips or skin
Significantly decreased activity and alertness
Some children with RSV may be at increased risk of developing a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection. Call your doctor if your child has:
Symptoms that worsen or do not start to improve after 7 days
A fever (with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher) and they are younger than 3 months of age (12 weeks).
A fever that rises above 104°F repeatedly for a child of any age.
Poor sleep or fussiness, chest pain, ear tugging or ear drainage
While colds are usually self-limiting and resolve within a week or so, RSV can lead to more serious complications in young children. It can progress to bronchiolitis or pneumonia, which may require hospitalization. Infants, premature babies, and children with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of severe RSV-related complications.
How to help your child with mild RSV
There is no specific treatment for RSV and medications, like steroids and antibiotics, do not help with RSV.
To help your child feel more comfortable, begin by doing what you would for any bad cold:
Nasal saline with gentle suctioning to allow easier breathing and feeding.
Cool-mist humidifier to help break up mucus and allow easier breathing.
Fluids & frequent feedings. Make sure your child is staying hydrated. Infants with a common cold may feed more slowly or not feel like eating because they are having trouble breathing. Try to suction the baby's nose before trying to breast or bottle-feed. Supplementing with water or formula is unnecessary for breastfed babies. If difficult for the baby to feed at the breast, expressing breastmilk into a cup or bottle may be an option.
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if older than 6 months) to help with low-grade fevers. Always avoid aspirin and cough and cold medications.
Keep in mind, children and adults can get RSV multiple times—even during a single season. Often, however, repeat infections are less severe than the first one.
Stay up to date on vaccines. Keep your children up to date on their immunizations and get the whole family annual flu and COVID shots. Adults over 60 years old can get the RSV vaccine. And getting vaccinated with Tdap―to protect against whooping cough—is especially important for adults who are around infants.
Limit your baby's exposure to crowds, other children, and anyone with colds. Keep children home from school or child care when they are sick and teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes.
Wash your hands. Just as you would to prevent germs at any time, use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Remind children to practice good hand hygiene all through the year.
Go germ-free. Disinfect objects and surfaces in your home regularly and avoid exposing your child to smoke from tobacco or other substances.
Feed your baby breastmilk. It has unique antibodies to prevent and fight infections.
Medicine is always advancing! Scientists continue to explore new options to prevent and treat RSV. In the meantime, rest assured that most people recover well from RSV.
At Kids First Pediatrics, we understand that distinguishing between a common cold and RSV can be challenging for parents. However, being vigilant about the signs and symptoms, especially during the fall and winter months, is essential. If you suspect your child may have RSV, please don't hesitate to reach out to our clinic for guidance and care. Early intervention can make a significant difference in managing RSV and preventing serious complications, ensuring the health and well-being of your child.
Raleigh: (919) 250-3478, Clayton: (919) 267- 1499
*This article is informational but is not a substitute for medical attention or information from your provider.