Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. The recovery time for the virus is normally short, one or two weeks, but for infants or older individuals, RSV can be more dangerous. The virus can cause bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, or pneumonia, an infection in the lungs.
Symptoms of RSV usually start to show in 4 – 6 days and can include:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
These symptoms do not show up simultaneously but rather occur in stages. To relieve symptoms, you can try to manage your fever and pain with over-the-counter medication, drink lots of fluids and talk to your healthcare provider if your symptoms are worsening.
RSV can also make chronic health problems worse. People with asthma may experience asthma attacks as a result of infection, and people with congestive heart failure may experience more severe symptoms triggered by the virus.
RSV in Older Adults
When an adult gets RSV, they typically have mild cold-like symptoms, however older adults or adults with existing heath issues may be at a higher risk for contracting the infection or experiencing more serious symptoms.
Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include:
- Older adults, especially those 65 years and older
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
Serious conditions that may be caused in adults:
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
- More severe symptoms for people with asthma
- More severe symptoms for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Congestive heart failure
RSV in Children
RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants 12 months and younger, and most children contract RSV by their 2nd birthday. Symptoms may be mild, but in certain cases, symptoms could be more dangerous.
Children who have a greater risk for getting RSV are:
- Premature infants
- Infants 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions
Infant Symptoms can include:
- Decreased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Apnea (pauses while breathing)
- Short, shallow and rapid breathing
- Struggling to breathe — chest muscles and skin pull inward with each breath
How to Decrease Chances of RSV Infection
If you have a loved one who has a higher risk of contracting RSV, take these precautions to keep them happy and healthy.
- Wash your hands often
- Keep your hands off your face
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect surfaces
- Stay home when you are sick
The above information was compiled from the following resources.