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November 9, 2023

RSV Season: How to Prepare and Protect Your Child with Genevieve Brauning, MD

by Genevieve Brauning, MD

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that affects people of all ages, but it can be particularly severe in young children. RSV season typically occurs during the fall and winter months, and parents need to be prepared to protect their children from this potentially dangerous virus. In this blog post, we’ll explore what RSV is, the symptoms to watch for, and how to prepare and protect your child during RSV season.

Understanding RSV

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that primarily affects the respiratory system. While RSV can cause mild cold-like symptoms in older children and adults, it can be much more severe in infants and young children. RSV is one of the leading causes of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age.

RSV Symptoms

The symptoms of RSV can vary, but they often resemble those of a cold and can include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite

It’s essential to be vigilant, especially if your child is an infant, as RSV can quickly progress to more severe symptoms, such as rapid breathing, severe cough, and difficulty feeding. In these cases, immediate medical attention is crucial.

Preparing for RSV Season

Preparation is key to keeping your child safe during RSV season. Here are some steps to help you get ready:

1. Stay Informed

First and foremost, it’s essential to stay informed about when RSV season is expected to hit your area. Typically, RSV season coincides with the fall and winter months, but it can vary by location. Keep an eye on local health advisories and the guidance from healthcare professionals.

2. Understand Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase your child’s risk of developing severe RSV symptoms. Premature babies, infants with a weakened immune system, and those with heart or lung problems are at higher risk. Knowing your child’s risk factors can help you take additional precautions.

3. Good Hygiene Practices

Practicing good hygiene is essential in preventing the spread of RSV. Here are some steps to follow:

Frequent Handwashing: Ensure everyone in the household washes their hands regularly, especially before handling the baby.

Limit Contact with Sick Individuals: Try to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, particularly those displaying cold-like symptoms.

Cough and Sneeze Etiquette: Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze and to use tissues and dispose of them properly.

House Cleaning and Disinfection: Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home, such as doorknobs, light switches, and toys. RSV can survive on surfaces for several hours, so keeping these areas clean is crucial in preventing transmission.

Limit Public Places: During RSV season, it’s a good idea to limit your child’s exposure to crowded places, especially if they are very young. This reduces the risk of them coming into contact with someone carrying the virus.

Protecting Your Child

In addition to the preparatory steps mentioned above, there are specific measures you can take to protect your child during RSV season:

1. RSV Vaccination

New RSV vaccines have been approved in 2023. Arexvy was approved by the FDA in May for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in individuals 60 years of age and older. Select Avance Care locations have the Arexvy vaccine available.

Abrysvo is another RSV vaccine that was approved by the FDA for patients ages 60 years and older, pregnant women between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation, and for children up to 24 months in age who remain vulnerable to severe RSV disease through their second RSV season.

2. Breastfeeding

Breast milk provides infants with essential antibodies and nutrients that can help protect them from infections like RSV. If possible, continue breastfeeding your child during RSV season. Breast milk can offer additional protection against respiratory illnesses.

3. Avoid Smoking

Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of severe RSV symptoms in infants. If you or anyone in your household smokes, consider quitting or at least avoid smoking indoors.

4. Monitor Symptoms

Vigilant monitoring of your child’s health is crucial during RSV season. If your child shows any signs of RSV or develops cold-like symptoms, contact your healthcare provider promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference in the outcome.

5. Seek Medical Attention

If your child is having difficulty breathing, is lethargic, or has high fever, seek immediate medical attention. Severe cases of RSV can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia and may require hospitalization.

6. Provide Supportive Care

In mild cases of RSV, you can provide supportive care at home. Ensure your child is well-hydrated and gets plenty of rest. Use a cool-mist humidifier to keep the air moist, which can make it easier for your child to breathe.

7. Stay Informed

Stay updated on the latest information and guidance from healthcare professionals. Understand the current situation regarding RSV in your area and follow the advice provided by your pediatrician or local health authorities.

RSV season can be a concerning time for parents, but by taking the necessary precautions, staying informed, and being vigilant about your child’s health, you can help protect your child from this potentially severe virus. Remember to practice good hygiene, limit exposure to crowded places, and seek immediate medical attention if your child displays severe symptoms.

The health and well-being of your child are of the utmost importance, and with the right knowledge and preparation, you can navigate RSV season with confidence and peace of mind. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance specific to your child’s needs during this time.

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