There are many contagious diseases going around this time of year. It is “Cold and Flu Season” after all. In “This Year’s Flu Shot: Does It Work” we talked about the threat of the flu for people with asthma. Unfortunately the flu is not the only virus we should be concerned about. Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is a leading cause of respiratory illness in pediatric patients.
If your child has any pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, lung conditions like reactive airway disease and asthma or was born prematurely then you want to pay special attention to preventing this illness.
RSV is a highly contagious virus. So contagious that most children will have had RSV by the time they are 2 years old. The virus is spread through coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces that have been contaminated by someone who is infected. In an adult, RSV will usually only cause mild cold like symptoms but in children the disease can cause severe illness including viral bronchitis or pneumonia.
Recent research further shows the danger of this infection by associating RSV with the risk for developing bacterial pneumonia. The study of more than 700,000 children showed that in those under one year old who developed bacterial pneumonia 20.3% of the cases were associated with high RSV activity.
If your baby has difficulty breathing, high fever, cough with discolored mucous, food refusal, excessive irritability or show any signs of dehydration then you need to contact your physician immediately.
Prevention is really the best bet to prevent complications from RSV infection. If your child is at a higher risk for complications from RSV there is a medication available called the Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine (Monoclonal Antibody) or SYNAGIS. The medication is a short term treatment that prevents the growth of RSV. The intramuscular injections must be started prior to RSV season and are usually continued once per month during the high risk season.
To further prevent catching this nasty virus try to steer clear of anyone who has been sick in the last 24 hours. Use proper hand washing techniques after coughing, sneezing, coming in from outside or after being out in public. Refraining from kissing baby or allowing others to do so during this time of year can also help prevent the spread of RSV. GermX or hand sanitizer can do in a pinch but nothing kills as many germs as good old fashioned soap and water.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.