RSV cases on the rise this fall & winter season, when to see a doctor and how you can stay safe

Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 5:43 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - With cold and flu season ramping up, hospitals and emergency rooms across the country are getting more crowded.

One virus that is particularly prominent at this time of the year is RSV. The virus is extremely common--most healthcare professionals would say every child has carried it by the time they’re 2 years old. And while anyone can get the virus, it is particularly prominent in children.

It usually presents itself with cold-like symptoms, but can be more severe for certain individuals.

”RSV actually can affect everybody, no matter what their age,” said Stephen Pallone, a doctor at the UnityPoint Health clinic. “But the ages that are most at risk are those kids who are under the age of 2, especially if they’re under the age of 1. And something that’s often overlooked is people who are older as well, so over the age of 65.”

Symptoms of RSV usually present themselves 5-7 days after exposure, and clear up within 2 weeks of contact. They’re usually the worst around that 7-10 day range.

Symptoms are typically cold-like, such as congestion, a runny nose, coughing and wheezing, and fevers, although the fevers are not guaranteed. The virus also makes you more susceptible to stronger diseases, such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Additionally, because the virus settles in your lower lungs, the cough can last up to a month.

For parents, it’s important to look out for certain symptoms in your child to know if you should bring them to a doctor. Some signs include quick breathing, particularly more than 60 breaths per minute, as well as heavy coughing and a decreased appetite. Another sign could be if your child hasn’t wet their diaper in a while. Also, it is important for parents to look at their children’s chests if they’re concerned they might have RSV, to see if they’re using more effort to breathe.

”Look at their chest,” said Barbara Fitzgerald, Clinical Nurse Educator in the MercyOne Emergency Room. “Are they using a lot of muscles to breathe? So, the more muscles that you use, the harder your work of breathing is. And the more you work at breathing, the more the lungs are involved and the more, kind of, worrisome that gets.”

Fitzgerald says it’s important to be safe and take your child to the doctor if you have any concerns.

If you or your child are diagnosed with RSV, make sure to stay home from school or work, as the virus is very contagious. Also, another symptom of RSV is dehydration, so be sure to drink lots of fluids.

And with hospitals and children’s hospitals across the country at near-full capacity, it is important to take steps to protect yourself from the virus, such as frequently washing your hands and avoiding contact with your face or eyes, if possible.