When the leaves begin to change and the air gets crisp, the exciting holiday season is just around the corner. But unfortunately, so is the season for viruses. When most people think of viruses, they think of the common cold. But, RSV and flu season are lurking as well. As a parent, RSV can seem completely terrifying. But the more you know about what it is the more confident you’ll likely feel. At Owlet, we believe in empowering parents with the right information and tools, and that includes educational content and resources. So, in this blog post, we’ll share more about what RSV is and what you should know as a caregiver.
For this post, we’ve pulled together information from leading experts and public health resources, and all citations and links are included at the bottom of the article if you’d like more information.
RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a virus that primarily affects the lungs and breathing passages. It’s highly contagious and spreads through droplets containing the virus. Sneezing or coughing can spread the virus, but it can also be found on surfaces like doorknobs or grocery carts. RSV can also be spread through hands and clothes, For babies, that means they can contract the virus through kisses and snuggles too.
RSV is a virus, which means antibiotics aren’t effective and the virus just needs to run its course. Fortunately, most cases are mild and may be mistaken for the common cold. With lots of rest and fluids, your child will be better in no time. However, RSV can be much more serious for premature babies and children with diseases that affect the lungs, heart and immune system. Medications may be given for fevers, and in extreme cases, your doctor may provide medications to help improve breathing if your child is struggling. If you feel like your child is struggling to breathe, contact their doctor immediately.
There is no true vaccine currently available for RSV. For babies who were extremely premature or have ongoing lung problems, there is an antibody treatment, which is available to prevent severe disease. Your pediatrician can tell you if your baby is eligible.
It’s easy to ask visitors to wash their hands before holding your new baby, but it can be harder to ask them not to kiss or touch their face. Setting boundaries with guests and extended family can help keep your baby safe. A gentle reminder that avoiding the spread of germs will keep the baby safe will help your visitors understand the rules.
From late fall to early spring (when RSV and flu are at their highest), you might want to consider living the introvert life. Avoiding large crowds and environments where your child may touch things other people have touched can help limit their exposure. What might be a mild cold that didn’t keep an adult home, may be what makes your child very ill.
Avoid exposing your child to someone who is sick. Even a mild cold could compromise your child’s immune system making them more susceptible to RSV and other illnesses. If possible, keep your baby away from anyone that is sick, including older siblings. If you or your partner is sick, avoid kissing your baby and if possible, wear a mask around your baby to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands often, and try to wipe down surfaces or shared toys.
Your baby will need plenty of fluids if they have RSV. Because they aren’t feeling well, they may not be feeding well. Offering frequent feedings to infants, or water and an electrolyte replacement (one brand is PedialyteⓇ) to older children, will help them recover faster.
If your child has common symptoms, such as stuffy nose, sore throat and cough, they may find relief with a cold-mist humidifier. This will help break up mucus, making it easier for you to suction out their nasal passages. Babies are obligatory nose breathers, so when their nose is stuffy, they struggle to eat and breathe. A humidifier and an infant bulb suction can help.
It’s likely your baby won’t need to see a doctor, and even if they do see a doctor for cold-like symptoms, they might not even get tested for RSV. However, if your child does have RSV, they may need help reducing a fever. Under the direction of your doctor, acetaminophen and ibuprofen (if your child is old enough) can be offered to help reduce your baby’s fever and reduce symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information in this post and on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.
Sources & Citations:
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: