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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that usually
affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Most serious infections with
RSV occur in babies and young children.
In less severe cases, RSV can cause:
Severe cases of infection with RSV in children under 2 years of
age can cause a condition known as bronchiolitis. This means the
small airways of the lungs are infected. Symptoms of bronchiolitis
Some babies and small children may have so much trouble breathing
that they don't eat well.
RSV infection can also cause viral pneumonia, which involves the
alveoli (air exchanging parts of the lungs).
RSV generally occurs in the winter and spring, so most healthcare
providers diagnose the condition when a child has symptoms during
RSV season. Diagnosis can also be made by using a test to find the
virus in samples of mucus from the nose. X-rays do not usually
help diagnose RSV infection.
Oxygen: Some babies may need extra oxygen to breathe more easily.
Suctioning: Use a bulb syringe to help suck our the mucus from
your child's nose. This will help your child breath more easily.
When young children are more severely infected, they may need
oxygen and suctioning of airways below the nose and throat, which
usually requires them to be in the hospital.
Medicine: Because RSV is caused by a virus and not a bacteria,
antibiotics will not help treat RSV unless another infection is
present. Sometimes, inhaled or oral asthma-type medicine may help
your child breathe easier.
RSV illness usually lasts anywhere from 7 to 21 days.
RSV is such a common virus that it is almost impossible to keep
your child from being exposed to it. One thing you can do is make
sure that people who are in contact with your young baby wash
their hands first before holding your child. Also, try to keep
your baby away from people with cold symptoms.
Babies born very prematurely, or babies with chronic lung disease
may be able to get treated with a drug called Synagis. Synagis is
a kind of antibody to prevent RSV. It is given as a shot every
month during the winter and spring.
Call immediately if: