RSV Treatment at Home – Cleveland Clinic
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) peaks earlier than normal, worrying doctors, the elderly and parents of children who have come into contact with the respiratory virus. While anyone can get RSV, and it usually goes away on its own in less than two weeks, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV leads to around 58,000 hospitalizations. and up to 300 deaths in children under 5 each year. . In adults 65 and older, RSV causes 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths each year.
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These numbers are particularly concerning when recent RSV outbreaks have led hospitals to reach or above capacity across the country with pediatric patients well before the normal winter peak.
As of mid-October, more than 7,300 tests have come back positive for RSV, according to the CDC. That’s an 83% increase since the end of August – and some doctors expect that number to double in the coming weeks. Although the direct cause of the flare-up is not known, several reasons may be at play.
COVID-19 has caused flu seasons to be disrupted over the past two years, resulting in fewer influenza and RSV cases until recent months. One of the reasons doctors think the new wave is happening is that we’ve done a great job of wearing masks, washing our hands, and isolating ourselves when sick. These practices may have diminished some of our immunity to other respiratory diseases, especially young children and infants, who would otherwise have normal interactions with RSV.
“Our youngest age group has been largely immune to viruses due to the pandemic,” says family physician Neha Vyas, MD. “Now, as they return to daycare and other pre-pandemic activities, they are exposed to these viruses and have not developed the immunity against them that normally occurs.”
As cases of RSV continue to rise, it is becoming increasingly important to keep your children home when they become ill and to treat their symptoms as they lessen the impact on children’s hospitals.
But how do you treat RSV at home and when should you take your child to the hospital for emergency medical care? Dr. Vyas explains some ways to comfort your sick child and when it’s time to seek medical assistance.
The best ways to comfort your child
Unlike influenza and COVID-19 (which have similar symptoms), there is no vaccine for RSV and there is no antiviral treatment. In most cases, RSV will go away on its own after a few days and up to two weeks after infection.
Hearing that there is no cure for RSV is totally depressing. Nobody likes to feel sick. But as a parent, you can minimize the spread of RSV by getting your child tested, keeping them home when they’re sick, and treating their symptoms as they arise. Here are some steps you can take to reassure your child while you both wait for the virus to subside:
let them rest
This may be the easiest thing your child can do when they have RSV. Put them at ease and let them rest when they feel tired. If you can, minimize their need to go up and down stairs, participate in physical activities, or do household chores. Their immune system is working to fight RSV, so the least they can do is give their body time to recover.
“Rest is important,” says Dr. Vyas. “Prioritizing sleep, especially when sick, will allow for faster recovery, so maintain a good nap and bedtime schedule.
Give them plenty of fluids
Children with RSV often lose their appetite and eat less or don’t feel like eating at all. When this happens, it is very important to keep them hydrated, especially if your child is an infant. Pedialyte® and other fluids containing electrolytes are good to have, but in most cases water is enough.
“Electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte and Gatorade® will help replenish minerals lost through sweat and sickness,” says Dr. Vyas. “Soft foods, broths and soups are also nutritious.”
Manage your fever
To reduce fever, you’ll want to maintain a comfortable room temperature. Give your child blankets when he’s cold or shivering and give him ice packs when he’s hot. In most cases, the fever will stop on its own, but you can also use over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers to help manage the fever and reduce the body aches they feel.
“It’s important to monitor your child’s temperature,” advises Dr. Vyas. “Temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) are cause for concern and should be brought to the attention of your healthcare professional.”
Why you should stay home if you have RSV-like symptoms
If you or your child have RSV, you could be contagious for three to eight days. Some infants and people with weakened immune systems can even spread the virus for up to four weeks, even if they have no symptoms. In the most severe cases, RSV can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis. That’s why it’s important that you wait to bring your child back to school or daycare until their symptoms are completely gone. And it’s also important that you stay home and avoid gathering in public.
“RSV can also occur in adults,” notes Dr. Vyas. “It usually looks like a cold, so pay particular attention to any worrying signs like difficulty breathing or dehydration.”
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
What makes RSV so dangerous is that it has the ability to inflame and obstruct your child’s airways. The smaller or younger your child is, the more likely they are to have breathing problems. If your child is having trouble breathing or begins to wheeze, you should make an appointment with your health care provider or pediatrician and see them immediately.
“Pay attention to your child’s breathing,” insists Dr. Vyas. “If they have to use their neck or chest muscles to breathe, or if they’re breathing rapidly, or if their lips look blue, get medical help right away.”