Understanding Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Young Children

Count yourself amongst the fortunate if your journey through infancy bypassed the encounter with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In the realms of understanding respiratory syncytial virus in young children, the CDC reveals a staggering fact – by the age of two, practically all children will have grappled with this virus that assaults the lower respiratory system. Toddlers, those tiny explorers with a touch for everything and everyone, find themselves on the frontlines of RSV’s advance, courtesy of its highly contagious nature. So, as winter sets in, if your older infant crosses paths with RSV, this article will equip you with the necessary insights.

Can We Rule Out RSV?

The most prevalent cause of bronchitis and pneumonia, RSV, is a respiratory virus that causes inflammation of the lungs’ tiny airways. The CDC says that between 58,000 and 80,000 children under the age of five are brought to hospitals every year, and another 2.1 million children under the age of five will get care outside of a hospital for RSV. While almost every child will get sick with a cold-like virus at some point, the small size of their lungs makes this a particularly dangerous illness for infants and toddlers.

However, according to Alyssa Silver, M.D., an attending physician at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, the illness often becomes less severe as the lungs grow. However, RSV can still cause illness in newborns of a greater age range. She explains, “It really just depends on how severe the illness is, how often they’ve had it in the past, and if there are any complicating factors, like other illnesses.”

Toddlers and Respiratory Syncytial Virus Symptoms

Most toddlers will develop symptoms of RSV infection 4 to 6 days after exposure since the virus primarily affects the upper respiratory tract. In most cases, the infection clears up on its own within two weeks. However, for some kids, RSV can travel all the way down to the lower respiratory system, where it can cause inflammation of the tiny airways and a resulting decrease in oxygen delivery. However, toddlers typically don’t experience as severe RSV symptoms as infants do since their lungs are larger and they have likely developed immunity from earlier exposure and infections.

These are the signs that your kid may have respiratory syncytial virus:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing

According to the CDC, it may take time for all of these symptoms to manifest.

Pediatric RSV Treatment

So, your kiddo has a fever and a horrible cough after returning from daycare. The diagnosis of RSV was verified by medical attention. So, how do you proceed?

As Amina Ahmed, MD, professor of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, explains, “supportive” care is the mainstay of treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in toddlers. For the next two weeks, you’ll be using a humidifier and cleaning your nose frequently. You should just try to keep your toddler as comfortable, hydrated, and clean as possible (those runny noses, though!) until the virus has run its course and your child is back to normal.

Care for your toddler with these suggestions for respiratory syncytial virus.

Nasal aspirator

For younger children, a nasal aspirator can be helpful. You could do better with an electric one or the Fridababy Nose Frida than the blue bulb you got at the hospital when your baby was born. This is due to the superior efficiency of modern instruments, which are especially useful when dealing with a robust (and quick!) toddler.

Instruct your kid to blow his or her nose.

Your child’s health and those of others around them will benefit greatly if you teach them to blow their nose. You’ll have more free time now that you don’t have to wipe your kid’s nose all the time. Keep the delicate skin around their nose from drying out and becoming chapped by using soft, firm tissues infused with moisturizer.

Keep yourself hydrated.

In order to get your kid to drink more water, purchase a cute new cup. If your toddler has a high temperature, isn’t eating well, or isn’t drinking enough water, their condition will worsen, and they may need to be hospitalized.

Discuss steroid use with your doctor.

If your doctor suggests steroid medication, it’s worth thinking about. Dr. Ahmed explains that while treatment that opens airways, such as albuterol, is often tried, it does not always prove successful.

Did You Know?

Scientists believe that drinking plenty of water can help shield against catching pneumonia. According to one idea, pneumonia symptoms can arise because dehydration makes lung inflammation sticky, reducing their ability to circulate oxygen properly.

The Dangers of Respiratory Syncytial Virus for Toddlers

You likely already know that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) isn’t as much of a worry in toddlers as it is in newborns. But there are dangers you need to know about. Dr. Rudolph Valentini, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, warns that because RSV can cause so much congestion, there is a small chance that your child will get a secondary illness like pneumonia or ear infection. “Ear infections are common in children after they’ve had a cold or the flu,” he explains.

Your toddler’s early age means that you might not yet know if they have any preexisting conditions, such as asthma, that could slow down their recovery from RSV. “If a child has other illnesses, they can make the effects of RSV worse,” Dr. Silver notes. “Likewise, any infant who has recently had an illness that may affect the lungs (for example, influenza) and then gets RSV can then be more severely affected as well.”

Prevent the RSV Outbreak

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is extremely contagious, but you won’t need a hazmat suit to avoid infecting others. If your kid is at risk for a serious infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking a few simple precautions to keep your family safe.

  • Soap and warm water should be used to wash one’s hands for at least 20 seconds on a regular basis.
  • Don’t touch your face, especially the sensitive areas around your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Find out the daycare’s sick-child attendance policy by asking.
  • Keep your sick child at home to stop the spread of illness.
  • It’s important to regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched areas to prevent the spread of germs.
  • To prevent the spread of germs, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing is recommended.

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