Protect Your Family From RSV This Winter and All Year Long

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most young children will have contracted RSV by age 2. In most people, it causes mild, cold-like symptoms. However, for some people, RSV can lead to severe respiratory complications that may end up requiring a hospital stay/.

RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalizations in the United States, and in adults age 60 and older with weakened immune systems, this virus can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia and bronchiolitis, or inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. RSV can also cause severe symptoms in people with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Basics About RSV

Like the flu and other respiratory illnesses, RSV is highly contagious. It spreads through droplets from an infected person when they cough or sneeze. You can also get RSV from direct contact with the virus, such as kissing the face of a baby who has RSV. RSV can also spread through shared surfaces.

Anyone can get RSV, and you can get it repeatedly throughout life, according to the CDC.

RSV infections cause symptoms including:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Fever
  • Runny nose and sneezing

Take preventive measures to stop the spread of RSV in your home:

  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.
  • Avoid close contact with others, including shaking hands and sharing utensils.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as light switches and doorknobs.

At-Home Care for RSV

Most RSV infections go away on their own and do not require antiviral medications or treatments. You can treat symptoms of RSV at home with the following guidelines:

  • Use over-the-counter medications, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, to treat fever. Check with your child’s pediatrician before giving your child over-the-counter cold medicines to manage symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Talk with your medical provider if symptoms worsen, or seek care at River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care to rule out other conditions and address potential complications. RSV can lead to complications and serious infections, including pneumonia, trouble breathing and dehydration, that can require hospitalization.

Prevention for RSV in Older Adults

An RSV vaccine is available to certain age groups. A single-dose RSV vaccine for adults can protect against RSV for at least two winter seasons when colds and viral infections are more common. The vaccines were effective at preventing pneumonia from RSV.

If you’re older than 60, talk with your healthcare provider about the RSV vaccine and the best time to get the vaccine to maximize your protection before and during winter months.

RSV Vaccines for Babies and During Pregnancy

An RSV vaccine is available to women who are pregnant and in their third trimester, or between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccine can protect babies from getting very sick before entering their first RSV season. Talk with your healthcare provider or OB-GYN to learn if this vaccine will benefit you and your baby.

For babies whose mothers did not receive the RSV vaccine during pregnancy, the CDC recommends infants younger than 8 months receive a different RSV vaccine during or before entering their first RSV season.

Talk with your pediatrician about the most appropriate time for this vaccine. This vaccine can reduce the risk of severe RSV in young infants by about 80 percent, according to the CDC.

Don’t wait to seek care if symptoms of RSV do not go away on their own. Find care after hours and on the weekends at River’s Edge Urgent Care Clinic.

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