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RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)
The respiratory syncytial virus affects your child's nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. Your child may have breathed in the germs or touched someone else who has the virus.
The infection is a winter virus that spreads when mucus from an infected child gets on toys, clothing or another object that is touched by a healthy child.
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children younger than 1 year old. Infants younger than 6 months are affected most because:
- their immune systems are not mature
- their airways are small
- their muscles are not well developed
- coughing does not clear their airways so they can breathe. Infants' airways become filled with mucus, making breathing difficult.
Your child can get RSV more than once. By the time your child is in grade school, she has likely been infected. Because RSV is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help. The virus must run its course (eight to 15 days).
Symptoms of RSV are:
- congestion and nasal drainage
- loss of appetite which may be caused by swallowing problems
- cough that won’t go away
- wheezing (whistling sound) when exhaling
- sometimes, a higher than normal temperature.
How to make your child feel more comfortable
- For an infant, use a rubber syringe bulb to remove any mucus in her nose. This will be helpful before each feeding.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Panadol®, Tempra®, Liquiprin® or Feverall®). Follow your health care provider's or the package directions.
- Give your child lots of clear liquids. For infants, give Pedialyte®. You may need to give small amounts of liquids more often. If your child is older than 6 months, you may give sports drinks (such as Gatorade®). Watch how often your child urinates to see if he needs more to drink.
- Do not withhold breast or formula feedings.
- Try to have your child rest as much as possible.
- Keep your child away from secondhand smoke.
When to call your health care provider
When an infant has RSV, he may have breathing problems. Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child's:
- breathing rate is more than 60 breaths per minute or greater while asleep
- nostrils are "flaring" when he breathes
- ribs seem to suck in and out while breathing
- nails or lips have a bluish color
- lips turn blue.
Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child:
- is restless, fussy and looks anxious
- will not drink or keep down fluids
- has not urinated in the last 12 hours.