Doc Talk: Valley Children's seeing rise in Respiratory Syncytial Virus

In our weekly feature, 'Doc Talk' pediatric emergency doctor, Clint Pollack from Valley Children's Hospital talks about one of the biggest viruses they're seeing at the hospital right now.

Doctor Pollack says the hospital has seen a rise in Respiratory Syncytial Virus and wants parents to know how to properly treat it once it occurs.

Here are a few facts about RSV:

-Causes viral respiratory infections, especially during the fall and winter months.
- Usually peaks in January/February.
- The most common cause of lower respiratory (lung) infections in infants.
- Infection is spread the same way as a common cold virus, by contact with secretions or inhalation of droplets.
- Usually takes about 4-6 days to develop symptoms after exposure.
- Children at higher risk for more serious infections include
- Infants younger than six-months-old

- Children with significant asthma
- Infants and children with underlying lung disease, such as chronic lung disease, or congenital heart disease
- Premature infants born before 35 weeks gestation
- Infants exposed to secondhand smoke
- Children with Down syndrome
- Immunocompromised patients (severe combined immunodeficiency, leukemia, or organ transplant)

Symptoms include cough, wheeze, fever, copious nasal secretions, and difficulty breathing.

RSV can cause severe lung infections, especially in younger infants, with bronchiolitis, pneumonia, or respiratory failure.

RSV can cause infants to stop breathing (apnea), especially very young or premature infants.

There is a test for RSV, done with a nasal swab, but the diagnosis of RSV is usually based on clinical signs and symptoms. Testing is only done when the results will affect management.

The treatment for RSV is supportive care, similar to a common URI: nasal suctioning, humidified air, medicine for fever, and good hydration.

There is an antiviral medicine for RSV, but it is only recommended for immunocompromised or extremely ill patients.

Antibiotics, inhaled albuterol, and steroids are not recommended.

Cough medicines and decongestants should never be given to infants as they have never been proven to help and can have serious or fatal side effects.

Children with mild cold symptoms can be managed supportively at home and do not need to see a doctor.

Infants with more severe symptoms (difficulty breathing, increased work of breathing, shortness of breath, pale, dusky, lethargic, unable to feed, dehydrated) should be seen by a doctor urgently.
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