The colder months can be difficult for many as cold and flu season hits. But there is another virus that we should be mindful of. The virus commonly known as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) can attack the respiratory system.
For parents of young children or those with weakened immune systems, it is just as important to know the symptoms of RSV, take precautions against RSV this season — and what to know for the future.
What is RSV
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms and the severity may be different depending on age and the person’s immune system.
Some people can recover in approximately two weeks with the proper care, but it may be worse for others.
RSV is present throughout the year. The virus becomes more active during the fall and winter, but can still be contracted in the spring or even the summer.
Who Can Get RSV
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, which is the inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs.
The virus can be serious, especially for infants, premature babies, and older adults who have weakened immune systems.
The virus can cause cold-like symptoms, in addition to other signs, which usually appear three to five days after infection. Here are the RSV symptoms to look for:
- Coughing and/or wheezing that doesn’t stop
- Gasping for breath
- Sunken chest when breathing
- Irritability and poor appetite
- Signs of dehydration
- Lethargy and interrupted sleep
- Blue color of the mouth or fingernails
- Cough producing yellow, green, or gray mucus
Since RSV is so similar to the common cold, it’s difficult to diagnose without a test.
A doctor can diagnose RSV by conducting a rapid RSV test. To do so, your provider will take a nasal swab, so a lab can test your mucus for the virus.
Another way your provider can diagnose RSV is by taking a chest X-ray.
Because the virus can make it difficult for a child to get enough oxygen, their pediatrician may also use a pulse oximeter to test blood oxygen saturation levels. If the test indicates they aren’t getting enough oxygen, the pediatrician may administer oxygen support.
In severe cases, hospitalization may be required to ensure the baby receives enough oxygen and stays hydrated.
What to Do if a Child or Adult Has RSV
How RSV is handled will depend on the situation as some are less severe than others.
Natural Interventions for RSV
- Cool Mist Humidifier: This helps moisten, soothe, and decongest airways.
- Nose Frida: Since babies can’t effectively clear their own nose and lungs, this tool uses your lung power to remove mucus from the baby’s nose. Note: You can place a few drops of saline solution in each nostril to help loosen things up first.
- Hydrate: Hydration is key! Breastfeeding mamas should continue to breastfeed as often as possible. For babies older than 6 months, bone broth or a natural electrolyte drink may help.
- Thyme Tea: Purchase organic dried thyme at your grocery store, put 1 Tablespoon of the herb in a tea ball, soak it in hot water, then put it in bath water. Repeat up to six times per day. Studies suggest thyme helps expel phlegm and relieve congestion.
- Epsom Salt: You can also add up to 1 Tablespoon of Epsom salt to bath water to relax the muscles in the chest cavity and help to further break up mucus.
Antibiotics are not necessary or helpful since RSV is a virus, not a bacterial infection. However, if RSV causes bronchiolitis or bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics may be prescribed by your provider.
Contact Naturally Sue
The items we discussed are precautions that can be taken for your children or other loved ones, and there are more therapeutic interventions that can be taken. These require one-on-one care so we can give your children the best options for their specific case.
If you feel this is necessary, don’t hesitate to reach out for a virtual visit. Taking action early can help to decrease how long someone is sick.