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Angle Family: Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Infants


October 27, 2021


Tim Hunter BSN RN CCM


About RSV

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a very common virus that typically causes a mild infection in the lungs and respiratory tract. For adults and older healthy children, the virus presents as a simple cold, and self-management along with a little TLC is more than enough to recover. 

Although RSV almost always is no more serious than a common cold, in a few cases it can cause severe illness, especially for high risk infants and toddlers such as those who are asthmatic, born prematurely, or have chronic lung diseases. Fortunately there are a few tips we can share about how to prevent RSV infections. 

How to prevent an RSV infection?

While scientists and researchers are working on it, currently there are no approved vaccinations to prevent RSV. There are precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you should follow, especially if your infant or toddler was born prematurely, has a chronic lung illness, or a compromised immune system:

  • Wash your hands often and cover up when you sneeze/cough: Singing “Happy Birthday” twice equates to the recommended amount of time for washing your hands. 
  • Avoid hand contact with your face: Keeping your hands away from your face is a great way to prevent viral infection. 
  • Clean bottles and items that are put into the mouth: Ensuring that pacifiers, bottles, teething toys and even your reusable water bottle are regularly cleaned with soap and water helps stop the virus spread!  
  • Stay home when you’re sick!: You can avoid spreading RSV to vulnerable populations if you stay home when you have a cold, or are not feeling well. Remember, while RSV may cause very mild symptoms in adults, it remains very contagious.
  • Don’t let others touch/kiss your baby: This is always awkward right? Even still, it’s the right call to tell someone to not touch your baby. And have the family wash their hands and not be sick if they are in contact with your baby. 

When should I be worried?

When RSV cases present mild symptoms similar to a cold, the best remedies are to manage the fevers. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms arise:

  • Labored Breathing: Severe labored breathing in infants, which commonly presents as deep retractions during breathing, and sometimes nasal flaring and head bobbing.  
  • Dehydration:  This can be noted if there is a low urine output (dry diapers).
  • Changing Color: When your baby’s lips or fingertips turn blue. 

If any of the symptoms are present, seek immediate medical attention.

Remember, your family doctor and your health plans are great resources for questions and concerns that you have regarding RSV and other healthcare topics that matter to you and your family.


What to Know About the Unusual RSV Outbreak

RSV in Infants and Young Children