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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV); Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Introduction

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common, respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It is a highly contagious and seasonal lung infection that often occurs in children but can even affect adults.

Mostly, the condition is mild but if not treated on time, it can lead to severe infection resulting in pneumonia and bronchiolitis. The most common way to prevent the spreading of the infection is to maintain good hygiene. 

This respiratory virus mainly targets the lungs, especially small air pathways i.e., bronchioles. It is counted among the frequent causes of childhood illnesses. In children, it mostly affects them by the age of two years.   

A number of healthy children and adults who get RSV infection experience mild symptoms that can be resolved in about a week.

However, in premature infants, babies younger than 6 months old, people above the age of 65, and who have compromised immune systems, a more severe form of infection can occur resulting in chronic lung disease and congenital heart conditions.

Also read: Foods & Drinks That Will Help You Detox Your Lungs

How does respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection spread?

Since it is a contagious respiratory virus, it spreads through close contact with a person who has an infection. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus goes into the air and can get into another person’s body via the eyes, mouth, and nose.

The virus can even remain active on hard surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, chairs, or counters. Whenever a person touches infected objects and then touches his or her face or mouth, the virus enters the body and spreads infection.

How long does it take for the symptoms to show up?

After RSV exposure, it takes around two to eight days for the body to show symptoms of the virus. The infection usually lasts for three to seven days.

Overall, infected children or individuals can recover fully from the infection in about one to two weeks if the condition has mild symptoms. 

Risk factors for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection

Premature infants

Babies younger than 6 years of age

Infants with congenital lung and heart conditions

Children and adults with compromised immune systems

Children who have difficulty swallowing or aren’t able to clear mucus

People above the age of 65

Adults with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and congestive heart failure

Is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection seasonal?

Respiratory syncytial virus infection is a seasonal illness like the influenza virus which causes the flu. In most areas, the virus spreads infection in the late fall through early spring.

Also read: Tips To Keep Lungs Safe

Symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection

Fever

Sneezing

Runny nose

Coughing

Wheezing

Fussiness or irritation

Loss of appetite

Changes in the breathing pattern

Sedentary lifestyle

Difficulty swallowing

Flaring of nostrils with every breath

Blue or grey colour to the lips, mouth, and nails

Congestion

Mild headache

Sore throat

Fatigue 

How is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals diagnose RSV infection by reviewing the medical history and the current health condition of the child or adult. The doctor examines the patients by listening to their lungs using a stethoscope, moreover, checks for the oxygen level with a device called a pulse oximeter. 

In addition to these, a few of the diagnostic tests recommended by the doctor include:

Swab test

Blood test

Urine test

X-rays

Computed tomography (CT) scan

How is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection treated?

If the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is mild, it may recover within one to two weeks and doesn’t require any treatment regime as it is similar to a common cold.

However, severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection requires immediate treatment or may even require emergency treatment if you have symptoms including difficulty breathing, severe infection (pneumonia and bronchiolitis), and compromised immune system.

If you have a severe RSV infection, the doctor would suggest the following:

Getting oxygen using a mask, nasal prongs, or via a breathing machine or ventilator.

Getting fluids into your body intravenously. 

Removing mucus from the airways with a thin tube that goes into the lungs and cleans them out.

Taking antiviral medications that help the body fight the virus.

How can I prevent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene involving:

Covering your mouth while coughing by using a tissue or fabric instead of your hands.

Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

Avoid getting in contact with infected people.

Avoid touching infected surfaces.

Clean and sanitize your hands, hard surfaces, objects, and even toys regularly.

If a child is at high risk of developing severe RSV infection, try to restrict their time in social settings during the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection season.

Final thoughts

RSV can be a frightening sickness for new parents who have young children. If your kid becomes ill and exhibits RSV symptoms, especially if they are under the age of 6 months, contact your healthcare professional or go to the emergency department. 

Even if your child has a mild infection, it’s vital to consult with your doctor to ensure that their symptoms aren’t serious. During RSV season, avoid big gatherings or events where contagious infections might quickly spread. 

Washing your hands frequently, urging those around your kid to wash their hands, and cleaning and sanitising commonly touched surfaces, objects, and toys can help to prevent the spread of RSV infection.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q1. What are the first signs of RSV infection?

Ans. Similar to the common cold, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, and loss of appetite are a few of the most common early signs of the onset of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection symptoms. 

Q2. How do you get RSV viral infection?

Ans. A person, who is infected, coughs or sneezes.When you cough or sneeze, virus droplets enter your eyes, nose, or mouth.You have direct touch with the virus, similar to kissing the face of an RSV-infected child.

Q3. What happens when adults get RSV infection?

Ans. Coughing, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, headache, low fevers, and exhaustion are common symptoms. More severe symptoms can range from influenza-like symptoms with more severe coughing and wheezing to pneumonia, inability to breathe on one’s own, and even death. 

Q4. Is RSV similar to COVID-19?

Ans. The flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all highly contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses: the flu by the influenza virus, COVID-19 by SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV by the respiratory syncytial virus. A person might be infected with numerous viruses at the same time.

Q5. Is RSV spread from kissing?

Ans. Contact with infected respiratory droplets transmits RSV. It can be transmitted through kissing, sharing drinks, or passing items from mouth to mouth. Washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact when sick will help in reducing the spread and safeguard our youngest family members.

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