Penn Highlands Healthcare shares the ABCs of RSV | Tri-County Sunday

Just when parents and guardians of young children could begin to breathe a sigh of relief that the COVID-19 pandemic posed less of a threat to their children’s health, an old familiar virus began to take hold of young people. children. In hospitals from coast to coast, emergency rooms and pediatric inpatient beds are filled with children with respiratory syncytial virus infection commonly known as RSV. In fact, some regions are approaching peak seasonal levels.

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. Most people usually recover within a week or two. However, RSV can be serious in infants and the elderly. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia in children under 1 year old.

“We typically see an increase in RSV cases in the winter, so this increase in cases is unusual,” said Thomas Sisk, MD, family physician at Penn Highlands Family Medicine in Finleyville, Pennsylvania. “The increase in cases could be due to the way the virus is spreading. Although contracted through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk, much like the flu, RSV can live on surfaces and objects such as toys and clothing for hours.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

RSV symptoms are usually present within four to six days of infection. Common symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • To cough
  • To sneeze
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

RSV symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and difficulty breathing.

“Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday,” Dr Sisk said. “Most children were protected against RSV and other common viruses during the pandemic when they saw fewer people, were in less public places, and when they or those around them wore masks.”

what is the treatement?

Since it is a virus, it will not respond to antibiotics. There is therefore no specific treatment. In mild cases, it’s about managing symptoms while the virus runs its course. Over-the-counter fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, will help manage fever and pain. Both children and adults should drink fluids to prevent dehydration. Additionally, doctors may prescribe oral steroids or an inhaler to help with breathing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy adults and infants infected with RSV usually do not need hospitalization. But some people infected with RSV, especially the elderly and infants under 6 months old, may need to be hospitalized if they have trouble breathing or are dehydrated. In the most severe cases, a person may need supplemental oxygen or intubation (having a breathing tube inserted through the mouth and up to the airway) with mechanical ventilation (a machine to help a person breathe ). In most of these cases, hospitalization lasts only a few days.

What can you do to help prevent RSV?

It is important to follow the practices outlined below if you or a family member has cold symptoms:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use your arm – not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, handshakes, and sharing cups and cooking utensils, with others.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.

Ideally, people with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children at high risk of severe RSV disease, including premature infants, children under 2 years of age with chronic lung or heart disease, and children whose immune system is weakened.

Whether you need an appointment for a sick child, an immunization, or an annual physical exam, the primary care physicians at Penn Highlands Family Medicine can take care of your entire family. From infants to the elderly, family physicians see patients of all ages. And they are dedicated to caring for the whole person, with an emphasis on building ongoing personal relationships with patients to help them provide the most comprehensive care possible. For more information, visit

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