Is it Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) or a Bad Cold - When to Worry?

July 8 2020
Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory syncytial virus infection, typically called RSV, can look and feel like a bad cold. And aside from the discomfort, both usually aren’t anything to worry about - but RSV can lead to pneumonia and other problems, especially in babies – so it’s important to know what symptoms to watch for, especially in our younger children. Jennifer Marshall DNP, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at Avista Family Medicine in Erie says over 40 percent of hospitalizations from RSV occur in children under six months old. Knowing how to recognize the illness, and when to get help is particularly important.  

Cough, stuffy or runny nose, mild sore throat, earache, and fever – all these symptoms are common among both colds and RSV. It’s when a runny noses and coughs turn into troubled breathing; the problem could indicate the more serious respiratory virus. Babies with RSV may be less hungry than usual, more cranky than typical, and lack energy.  Marshal adds, “Apnea, or a period where your baby is not breathing is another critical symptom in an infant under six months that should be evaluated promptly.” Fewer wet diapers than usual, a blue tinge around lips or fingernails, and wheezing should also prompt a call to your physician.   

Doctors usually diagnose RSV by symptoms and knowing whether there is an outbreak of the infection in your area. The illness most frequently goes away on its own, and for most people, home treatment is all that is needed. Like many viruses, it's hard to avoid catching RSV, but you lower risk with good health hygiene. Hand washing is one of your best defenses and keeping your child’s vaccines up to date is recommended.   

Parent Magazine turned to Centura’s Jennifer Marshall for advice for it’s recent article 5 RSV Symptoms in Newborns Never to Ignore.