RSV – Respiratory syncytial virus – is a virus that affects the respiratory tract, particularly the lungs. Most children will have had the virus by the time they are two. However, Respiratory Syncytial can also affect adults. If it occurs in adults and in healthy children, the symptoms are generally very mild and are hard to distinguish from the common cold.
Symptoms of RS-Virus
The symptoms of RS-virus in children generally start to appear around half a week to a week after they were exposed. Most of the time, the symptoms are exactly the same as the cold and include:
• A dry cough
• A runny or congested nose
• A sore throat
• A low fever
• A slight headache
However, if the case is more severe, patients can develop bronchiolitis, where the small airway passages that go into the lungs are inflamed, or pneumonia, where fluid starts to collect on the lungs. In this case, the symptoms may include:
• A severe cough
• A high fever
• Rapid breathing or breathing difficulties, and the child may choose to sit upright instead of lying down
• Wheezing, heard mainly when the child exhales
• Turning blue in color (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen
It is mainly infants that are affected the worse by RS-virus. Usually, you will notice that their chest muscles start to draw in, showing the skin between their ribs. This demonstrates that they struggle to breath. They also generally have shallow, short and rapid breaths and might cough. Some children may show some of the signs of a respiratory tract infection. Usually, they also turn very lethargic and may be very irritable.
Generally, it takes no more than two weeks to recover from the illness. However, in those who have underlying health conditions (highly premature children, people with lung or heart problems or those with a compromised immune system) may find they develop a more severe infection, which can be life threatening. They will usually require hospitalization at the very least.
When to See a Doctor
In the majority of cases, RS-virus is not life-threatening and will simply go away after a while. However, if your child, or anybody else with a compromised immune system, shows signs that they struggle to catch a breath, start to turn blue or have a really high fever, you must phone a doctor straight away. Pay particular attention to their lips and the beds of their nails. If those turn blue, help is needed straight away.
The vast majority of children will have been infected with the virus by the time they are two. Children who have siblings or those who are in day care are most at risk of contracting the virus, as are those who live in highly polluted areas or who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Also, between the fall and the spring, the virus is more prevalent.
The following categories of people are at an increased risk of developing the condition and of developing more severe infections:
• Babies under the age of six month
• Kids under the age of one that have underlying health conditions (lung disease, congenital heart disease and so on) or who were born prematurely
• Children with a weaker immune system, for instance if they are going through a transplant or chemotherapy
• The elderly
• Adults who have congestive heart failure, asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
• People with compromised immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS or leukemia
• People with certain transplanted organs