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What Is RSV ?
RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It is a virus that causes an infection called bronchiolitis. It is seen most commonly in children under 2 years of age. You may have heard your paediatrician use the term ‘bronchiolitis’ to describe a respiratory infection of the lower airways that causes breathing problems. Bronchiolitis is a common cause of illness in infants and is a leading cause of hospitalization in this age group during the winter season when the virus is most active.
What Are Its Symptoms?
Bronchiolitis usually develops following one to three days of common cold symptoms like nasal congestion, mild cough, fever and decreased appetite. Due to this infection, there may be some blockage of the airways that causes wheezing – a whistling sound heard as the child breathes out. In most babies, the infection is mild and settles in 4-6 days. In some babies however, it may progress to cause difficulty in breathing and persistent coughing which can be quite tiring for the baby. There may be difficulty in feeding due to nasal congestion and rapid breathing. Low oxygen levels and blue-tinged skin can develop as the illness progresses. Such babies would require urgent medical attention. Some times, very sick babies may stop breathing.This occurs more commonly in infants less than two months of age, those born prematurely and with pre existing lung problems. Read this: Nipah Virus (NiV) Signs & Symptoms, Precautions
How Do Babies Get RSV Infection?
The virus gets transmitted through droplets in the air exhaled by breathing, coughing or sneezing from infected people. It can also be carried on hands of such persons, where the virus can survive for several hours.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of bronchiolitis is based upon the symptoms and physical examination of the baby. Blood tests and x-rays are not usually necessary. But it is important to see a doctor early who can assess the severity of the illness and advise accordingly.
How Is It Treated?
There is no direct cure for bronchiolitis, so treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms. Mild cases are treated at home by making sure the child drinks enough and saline nose drops are used to relieve congestion. Paracetamol may be given as needed for fever. Keeping the child’s head elevated with an extra pillow can help make breathing more comfortable. Antibiotics are not effective in treating bronchiolitis because it is usually caused by a virus. However, antibiotics may be necessary if there is associated ear infection or pneumonia. Please remember that if your baby develops any of the following features,urgent hospitalisation would be required for oxygen, iv fluids etc –
- Difficulty breathing or tiring
- Pale or blue-tinged (cyanotic) skin
- Severe coughing spells
- Poor feeding and less wet diapers
How Long Do Babies Take To Recover?
Most children with bronchiolitis who are otherwise healthy begin to improve within three to five days. However, wheezing may persist in some infants for a week or even longer. After developing bronchiolitis, some infants will have recurrent episodes of wheezing during childhood. These episodes are triggered by viruses and may respond to the same treatments used in children with asthma.
How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting This Infection?
Avoid close contact with adults and children with upper respiratory infection.Wash hands with soap and water or use hand rub frequently when handling babies. Avoid smoking near children as this increases the risk of respiratory illness Keep you child out of daycare and/or school until the fever and runny nose have resolved (ie the time during which they are most contagious) to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Awareness of RSV infection and bonchiolitis will help you recognise and manage your child better during the illness. Hope this blog has been useful in doing so!
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