Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Kids
Ray Smith
/ Categories: 2022, 2022

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Kids

Here at SVMC and the surrounding area, we are seeing the expected annual increase in pediatric respiratory illnesses, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV), influenza, COVID, and rhinoviruses in children. Many places across the country are experiencing a big spike in RSV and other respiratory illnesses among kids and we expect the same.

As parents and caregivers, here’s some helpful information:

  • RSV causes cold-like symptoms similar to many other viruses, including fever, cough, and runny nose.
  • RSV can be more severe in certain patients, particularly those who are under 3 months old, are premature or have underlying conditions affecting their immune system or heart defects. These children may be more likely to be hospitalized but less than 5% of all children with RSV require hospitalization.
  • Avoid visits to the doctor or emergency department, unless your child has concerning symptoms such as trouble breathing or drinking. Some parents expect to get tested in the same way we used to test for COVID, but testing is not indicated in most cases, because the outcome doesn’t affect the treatment plan.
  • There are no treatments for RSV but some children may benefit from asthma type treatments such as nebulizers or inhalers. This is a small portion and this is not needed for most kids.
  • There are no home medications for RSV in children, but there are many things you can do to make your child more comfortable. Over the counter (OTC) cough medications are not recommended for children under 6 years of age. There are some non-medicated “herbal” over the counter medications for younger children but these have not been sufficiently studied for broad recommendation and are unlikely to make a significant difference in symptoms.
  • Rest, good hydration, nasal suction, cool mist vaporizer, honey (for children over 1 years old), and steam baths can help relieve cough and congestion.
  • If your child is experiencing severe symptoms (significant discomfort, prolonged symptoms), call your pediatrician’s office and don’t hesitate to bring them to the emergency department if they are having difficulty breathing or staying hydrating.
  • To minimize the effects of other illnesses, we recommend that parents vaccinate their children who are 6 months and older against the flu and COVID. Children 5 and older who have been previously vaccinated against COVID are now recommended to get the bivalent (“updated”) booster against COVID which can be done at the SVMC COVID Resource Center.
  • Stay away from sick people, particularly infants, away from sick people. American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations are to keep your child at home from school and all other activities when the child has a fever or acute sick symptoms interfering with play/participation.

RSV can be scary but most children can get through it without significant problems and back to play within a week!

Meghan Gunn, MD, is a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics and the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

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