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RSV Symptoms & Prevention

mother holding baby sick with rsv at doctor's office

Here we are in the cold winter months where the likelihood of getting sick increases. When colder weather hits, we tend to spend more time in enclosed spaces, close to each other, where infections, especially respiratory infections can be transferred more readily. 

Respiratory Synatica Virus or RSV causes infections of the lungs and the respiratory tract. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US an estimated 57,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized each year due to RSV infection. RSV can be dangerous for older adults as well. Each year, it is estimated that more than 177,000 older adults are hospitalized and 14,000 of them die in the United States because of RSV. 

Symptoms of RSV in older children and adults are similar to a bad cold and may include the following:

  • Congested or runny nose
  • Dry cough 
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat 
  • Mild headache

RSV symptoms in babies are a little different and can be more serious. Symptoms a baby may have include:

  • Breathing that’s faster than normal
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy or behaving sluggishly
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing

RSV can be confirmed with a lab test. The HNJH Laboratory uses a rapid test method. This method looks at cells taken from fluid in your nose or throat via a swab to detect the RSV protein antigen. An antigen is a substance in the virus that causes your body's immune system to make antibodies. Since December 1st, the lab has run 38 RSV tests with 7 positive results. While those numbers are lower than last year, we are still in the midst of peak RSV season. 

RSV spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touching your face before washing your hands. An adult may spread the virus to a baby or child by kissing their face. Washing your hands often, keeping your hands off your face, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces are easy ways to stop the spread of the illness. If you suspect your loved one may have the virus, make an appointment with your primary care provider.