Posts Tagged respiratory tract infections

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Posted by on Tuesday, 20 April, 2010

RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the most frequent cause of serious respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 4 years of age. This is such a common virus that RSV has infected virtually all children by the age of three. In most young children, it results in a mild respiratory infection that is not distinguishable from a common cold. RSV occurs throughout the year and is most prevalent in winter months.


RSV causes nasal stuffiness and discharge, cough and sometimes ear infections. It is usually self-limiting and does not require hospitalization or specific treatment, even in the majority of those who also have lower respiratory tract involvement. These children may have a low-grade fever for several days, respiratory symptoms that may last for 1 to 2 weeks, and a cough that sometimes persists beyond 2 weeks.

Sometimes an infant or a young child who is experience his or her first RSV infection may develop a severe infection in the lower respiratory tract that is best managed in the hospital. Approximately 90,000 children are hospitalized with these infections each year. Most commonly, the ones requiring hospitalization are newborns and infants and those with complicating or underlying conditions, such congenital heart, lung disease or prematurity.

A child who develops signs of more stressful breathing, deeper and more frequent coughing, and who generally acts sicker by appearing tired, less playful, and less interested in food may have developed a more serious RSV infection an need to be hospitalized. In the great majority of cases RSV infection is self-limiting and requires no specific therapy. For the more serious cases, that are hospitalized, the doctor may order an antiviral treatment that is administered in a mist form This will depend on the severity of the illness, any associated diseases or conditions, and several other factors.

Children and adults of all ages can become infected. The infection in older children and may be very mild, usually causing cold- like symptoms. A person becomes infected by coming in close contact with another infected person or by the secretions from an infected person. An infant usually acquires the infection from close contact with an older family member who may have only a mild, cold-like symptoms. As noted earlier, RSV occurs throughout the year, but because it occurs in a wide-scale, sudden outbreaks, and is so prevalent in the winter months, it is not feasible or advisable to attempt to prevent the normal child’s exposure to RSV infection. When a family member is infected, extra precautions may be taken by washing of hands often, and preventing spreading of infectious secretions on tissues and other objects.

Although a child can get a second RSV infection, it’s very unlikely that the symptoms will be much milder than the first time. Most children recover completely and will handle their next respiratory infection with no more than the average child. A few children, however, appear to be more susceptible to subsequent respiratory problems. Susceptibility may relate, however, to some other underlying medical condition or allergy found in medically fragile children.