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An Update on Prevea’s Western Wisconsin Operation

What is RSV? 

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It’s so common that most children get RSV at least once before they turn 2. While most recover in a week or two, and for most it’s just like a cold, RSV can be serious – especially for infants and older adults. 

How do you know if it’s a cold or RSV?  

Many people mistake the symptoms of RSV for the common cold. If you aren’t sure if your child has a cold or RSV, or you suspect it’s RSV, call your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician – especially if you or your child are having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids or your symptoms are worsening.  

Your child’s primary care physician will likely complete a physical exam, listen to the lungs and ask some questions to best diagnose or rule out RSV. Testing for RSV is not necessary, but your child’s doctor may also do some tests such as a nasal swab and chest X-rays or lab work to rule out other problems.  

Prevea has a 24/7 nurse line if our office is closed, your child is sick and you have questions. If you aren’t sure where to start or if your child has been diagnosed with RSV and you have follow-up questions after hours, call (920) 496-4700 or  
(888) 277-3832 at anytime. 

Signs of RSV in children 

Many children get RSV more than once. The first time they get it, most likely before age 2, their symptoms tend to be more severe. When older children get RSV again, most of the time their symptoms are more mild, cold-like symptoms.  

Those with RSV usually show symptoms within 2 to 8 days after getting infected. Symptoms may include the following; they can appear in stages and not all at once.  

  • Runny nose 
  • Cough, especially with yellow, green or gray mucus 
  • Sneezing 
  • Fever  
  • Wheezing or high-pitched whistling noise when breathing 
  • Difficulty breathing or pauses in their breaths
  • Decreased appetite and refusal to breastfeed or bottle feed 
  • Dehydration – look for lack of tears when crying, little or no urine in their diaper for 6 hours and cool, dry skin 
  • Unusually upset or inactive

Signs of RSV in babies 

RSV can be dangerous for infants because their airways are smaller, so inflammation of their airways or mucus can make it harder for them to breathe. It can cause more serious health infections such as bronchiolitis – an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia – an infection of the lungs. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1. 

In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties. Watch for the following: 

  • Baby may be having a hard time breathing if you notice: 
    • Fast, short breaths. 
    • Chest or rib cage is “caving in” when breathing. If you see an upside-down “V” shape under the neck when baby is breathing in, then baby is working too hard to breath.  
  • Grunting noises. 
  • Blue or purple skin, lips, tongue, gums. 

Is RSV contagious? 

Yes. Just like the common cold or flu, RSV is contagious. RSV spreads through the air and through direct contact.  

  • It can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the virus droplets reach your or your child’s eyes, nose or mouth.  
  • You can also become infected by touching a surface that has the virus on it, such as a doorknob, countertop or handrail, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.  
  • You can also have direct contact with the virus, such as kissing someone with RSV. 

Who is high risk for getting RSV? 

  • Premature infants. 
  • Very young infants, especially those 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. 
  • Children with asthma, allergies and eczema. 
  • Children who are exposed to smoking during pregnancy and secondhand smoke in the home. 
  • Children with siblings. 
  • Children in group day care settings.  

How to protect your children from getting RSV 

  • Avoid close contact with others (kissing, shaking hands, sharing cups and eating utensils) 
  • Avoid kissing your or other babies if you have cold symptoms or are recovering from a cold
  • If possible, keep your baby away from anyone with cold symptoms and avoid crowds
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do this often - before and after eating, when you get home, etc.  
  • Ask people to wash their hands before they touch or hold your baby 
  • Use hand sanitizer 
  • Frequently clean surfaces, countertops and high touch areas like doorknobs, cell phones, toys, etc. 
  • Don’t let anyone smoke around your baby and avoid areas where there is smoking 
  • Limit the time high-risk babies and young children are in daycare 
  • Breastfeed. Breastmilk has special antibodies to help baby fight off infections 
  • Wear a mask in group settings
  • Get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines

How to prevent the spread of RSV 

  • If you or your child is sick, stay home 
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash hands and surfaces often

How to treat RSV and help your child feel better 

There is no cure for RSV. Most cases of RSV are mild and require no specific treatment from your child’s physician because the infection will go away on their own in a week or two. Antibiotics do not help with RSV because it’s a virus and antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. Medications may sometimes be given to help open airways and to improve breathing. 

While there is no specific treatment for RSV, researchers are working to develop vaccines and antiviral medications. Take the following steps to help relieve symptoms: 

  • Stay home and rest. 
  • Manage pain and fever with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Never give aspirin to children 
    • Talk to your health care physician or provider before giving your child non-prescription or over-the-counter cold medications. Some cold medications may contain ingredients that are not good for children
  • Drink a lot of fluids. It is important for people with RSV to drink enough liquids to prevent dehydration  
  • Nasal saline or gentle suctioning to clear the nose
  • A cool-mist humidifier can help break up mucus making it easier to breathe 

When to call the doctor 

For children who get very sick with RSV, the wheezing may worsen and turn into bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Continue to monitor symptoms and call your child’s doctor if symptoms get worse or don’t get better after 5-7 days.  

If your baby is very tired, breathes rapidly or has a blue tint to their lips or fingernails, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

Click here to learn more about RSV