Mom comforting sick infant
Children's Health, Seasonal Tips

RSV in Babies and Adults

Along with colder weather, winter also brings an increase in respiratory illnesses. Spending more time indoors allows germs to spread more easily, meaning more people get sick. Aside from Covid-19 and the flu, one of the common illnesses this time of year is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Raghda Bchech, MD, a family medicine physician at Bayhealth Family Medicine, Dover, says RSV can be particularly concerning for babies and young children, as well as older adults.

“While RSV usually presents as mild cold symptoms, some infants, toddlers and elderly persons experience more serious symptoms,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost every child will be infected with RSV by their second birthday.

“Parents should be mindful if they notice their child develops a runny nose, cough, fever or decrease in appetite or urination,” Dr. Bchech says.

Most of the symptoms can be managed at home, but if you notice your child is wheezing or having difficulty breathing, call their doctor right away, as the virus can cause more severe infections such as pneumonia.

Although RSV has traditionally been thought of as a children’s illness, adults can also be infected with the virus. Older adults and those with heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or who are immunocompromised with other conditions are at higher risk of getting ill from RSV.

Two single-dose RSV vaccines are now available for adults 60 and over.
“Adults in this age group should have a conversation with their healthcare clinicians to discuss if they would benefit from RSV vaccination,” explains Dr. Bchech.

The CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend the maternal RSV vaccine for pregnant mothers at 32-26 weeks, as this can pass on antibodies to protect their infants in early life.

“Since symptoms in healthy adults are usually mild, they might not realize they have RSV,” Dr. Bchech says. “Parents may infect their young children or pass it on to grandparents without knowing, so it’s important to practice good hygiene.”

Prevent spreading RSV by covering your coughs, washing your hands often, avoiding close contact (especially with babies and toddlers), and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Being aware of your symptoms and being vigilant about hygiene can help you and your family stay healthy this season.

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