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6 Little-Known Facts About RSV, According to a Pediatrician

You can prepare for many moments of parenthood, but the feeling you get when your child is sick is not one of them. It’s an emotional roller coaster that’s unfortunately part of Parenting 101. While there’s no way to completely prevent your little one from getting sick, you can get ahead of learning more about respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in babies.

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization in babies under the age of 1. According to the CDC, an estimated 58,000 children younger than 5-years-old are hospitalized due to RSV infection each year in the United States. As a parent, it’s important to educate yourself on the ins and outs of this unpredictable and highly contagious virus. To that end, we tapped Dr. Charnetta Colton-Poole, a board-certified pediatrician for some little-known facts about RSV.

1. 2 Out of 3 Babies will get RSV By the Age of 1

RSV is a virus that causes inflammation of the small airways in the lower respiratory tract. Colton-Poole describes it to her patients as “a cold in the lungs.” It’s so common (and so contagious) that two out of three babies will get RSV by the age of 1.

2. RSV Causes More Than Cold Symptoms

Common symptoms associated with RSV can include fever, cough, congestion, running nose, wheezing, a poor appetite, and respiratory distress—such as nasal flaring, chest wall retractions (which are characterized by a “caving in” of the chest in between and under the rib), and increased breathing rate. But there are lesser-known symptoms, too, like a feeling of ‘pulling’ at the ears, and a greater likelihood to develop other bacterial infections.

3. RSV Can Affect Anyone

“You may think that RSV is just a disease that affects premature babies and immunocompromised babies, but any baby is at risk [of contracting RSV],” Colton-Poole says. “And while RSV can affect anyone of any age—yes, adults too!—babies under the age of 1 are at the highest risk.”

4. The Virus Can Live Just About Anywhere

The main way RSV spreads is through respiratory droplets, but the virus can live on inanimate objects and surfaces too. “Parents are often surprised when I tell them that RSV can live on inanimate objects for hours,” Colton-Poole says. “For example, the cart at the grocery store, the doorknob, or a shared toy at daycare. That’s why it’s so easy to catch.”

5. Traditional Medicine May Not Help

Wheezing is a common symptom of RSV, but traditional medicines used to help with wheezing, like albuterol administered with a nebulizer machine, may not help. Caring for a baby with RSV is mostly supportive. This includes using a nasal suction cup and saline drops to clear a stuffy nose, providing fluids, using a vaporizer to keep air moist for easier breathing, and keeping your child as comfortable as possible.

“In the event that your child needs to be hospitalized, care will also include respiratory support, which should be comforting to worried parents,” Colton-Poole says.

6. There Are Ways To Protect Your Little Ones

While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent RSV, there are ways to protect yourself and your little ones. “Universal precautions are key,” Colton-Poole says. “Wash your hands and sterilize surfaces like the grocery cart and shared toys frequently. Avoiding unnecessary outings during the first six months of your child’s life can also help limit exposure.”

Additional ways to further reduce the spread of viral and bacterial illnesses are to avoid sharing drinks with your child, and while it can be hard to resist, it’s best not to kiss your baby while you are sick.

No matter how much you prepare, it’s hard to watch your child suffer when there’s minimal things you can do to help. Pacing your patience is a must, says Colton-Poole. “The natural course of RSV is that it always gets worse before it gets better. But remember: better is coming!”

To learn more about RSV, visit www.KnowingRSV.com.

Article reposted from Romper.com.

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