Preventing RSV in children and adults

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 Hello again from Beth, one of your Pharmacy Chicks! Over the past few weeks, questions have arisen from patients about preventing RSV in their children and grandchildren. Today I want to provide some information about what RSV is and how you can prevent the spread of this respiratory virus.

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus. It is a virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Although it is most common in children under the age of 2, RSV can also infect adults. For healthy, older children and adults, the symptoms of RSV are mild and like a common cold. But in babies under 12 months old, especially premature babies, older adults, people with a weakened immune system, and people with heart and lung disease, RSV can cause a severe viral infection.

The most common symptoms of RSV appear about 4 to 6 days after being exposed to the virus. The mild cold-like symptoms are congested or runny nose, dry cough, low-grade fever, sore throat, sneezing, and headache. The additional symptoms of severe RSV in babies include short, shallow, and rapid breathing, struggling to breathe where the chest muscles and skin pull inward with most breaths, poor feeding, irritability, and lethargy. When the infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, pneumonia or bronchiolitis may occur. The additional symptoms of this inflammation of the small airways include fever, severe cough, wheezing on exhaling, rapid breathing, and bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen. If these more severe symptoms occur, go to the emergency room, or call 911.

Usually, children and adults have symptoms for one to two weeks, but some may have continued wheezing. In premature infants or in someone with chronic heart or lung problems, a hospital stay may be needed.

The CDC website indicates that RSV contributes to about:

2.1 million outpatient visits in children younger than 5 years old

58,000-80,000 hospitalizations in children younger than 5 years old

60,000-120,000 hospitalizations in adults 65 years and older

6,000-10,000 deaths in adults 65 years and older

100-300 deaths in children younger than 5 years old

RSV is contagious. It enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. It spreads through close contact with someone who has the virus. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus can be spread into the air around them through respiratory droplets. RSV can live on hard surfaces, like counters, doorknobs, crib rails, and toys for hours. Touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching a contaminated object may infect you with the virus. It can also be passed to others through direct contact, such as shaking hands or affectionate kisses.

There is not a vaccine for prevention of RSV. There are steps that everyone can take to help prevent the spread of this viral infection.

Wash your hands frequently and teach your children to do the same.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Limit your baby’s contact with people who have colds and coughs.

Clean kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, toys, bed rails, and other hard surfaces that could be infected.

Don’t share drinking glasses with others.

Wash toys regularly, especially if your child or their playmates are sick.

Keep your child home from school or daycare when they are ill.

Avoid giving affectionate kisses to children if you have a cough or cold.

If you have a child that is at high risk of developing severe RSV, limit their time in large social settings during the RSV season.

Some of the complications of RSV can include hospitalization, pneumonia or bronchiolitis, middle ear infections, and asthma. Repeated infections are possible, even during the same RSV season. Symptoms usually are not as severe during repeated infections. Since RSV is a viral infection, antibiotics are not used for treatment of RSV but may be necessary if bacterial pneumonia or middle ear infections develop. Treatment for RSV can include antivirals, fluids to prevent dehydration, oxygen, fever and pain reducers, and removing mucus from the airways. For high risk babies, preemies and babies with heart or lung disease, a once monthly injection called Synagis (palivizumab) may be given during RSV season to provide virus-blocking antibodies to help prevent RSV infection.

For more information on RSV or answers to other healthcare questions, stop by and see one of the Pharmacy Chicks at Sparta Drug Center or Payless Family Pharmacy. Pharmacy Chicks out!

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