What do I need to know about RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common infection that affects most children within their first 2 years of life. The virus is easy to catch because it is spread by:

  • close physical contact (such as kissing or shaking hands)
  • sneezing and coughing
  • contact with surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus (e.g., baby toys or furniture)

For most babies, RSV infection causes a fever and symptoms similar to a cold, such as:

  • runny or stuffy nose
  • coughing (dry cough)
  • mild headache
  • sore throat
  • feeling unwell

However, RSV can cause more serious problems for some babies, including pneumonia (lung infection) and bronchiolitis (infection of the tiny airways in the lungs). If either of these occurs, the baby may need to be hospitalized.

Symptoms of serious health problems such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis include:

  • wheezing
  • fast or shallow breathing
  • difficulty breathing (your child may prefer to sit up, which makes breathing easier, rather than lie down)
  • bluish skin color
  • high fever
  • severe coughing

If your baby has a high fever, a bluish colour, or difficulty breathing, get immediate medical attention.

Milder cases of RSV may be treated at home by giving the child plenty of fluids, using a humidifier or vaporizer if the air is dry, and using non-prescription medications to reduce fever if needed. Babies with more severe RSV may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids, medications to make breathing easier, and oxygen. These treatments are used to manage the symptoms of RSV - they do not cure the infection. The body must get rid of the infection on its own.

Certain babies have a higher risk of serious health problems from RSV infection. To find out if your baby is at risk, see "RSV complications: Is my baby at risk?"

Most cases of RSV occur during the "RSV season." In Canada, RSV season starts between November and January, and is usually over by the end of April. To reduce your baby's risk, it's important to be prepared. See "How to prepare for RSV season" to learn more.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Are-You-Ready-for-RSV-Season

RSV complications: Is my baby at risk?

Most children will be infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) by the age of 2. Usually, babies infected with RSV have symptoms similar to a cold and do not experience serious health problems from the infection. But some babies are at risk of more serious complications that may put them in the hospital, such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis (an infection of the tiny airways in the lungs).

There are a number of factors that increase the risk of serious health problems from RSV:

Premature birth: Babies who are born prematurely (before 36 weeks of pregnancy) are more prone to infections such as RSV because their immune system has not fully developed. As well, their lungs have not been fully formed, so lung infections are more likely to cause breathing problems.

Lung problems: Lung problems are common in babies who are premature, because the lungs have not had a chance to develop fully. But even babies who are not premature can have lung problems (such as cystic fibrosis). The lung damage caused by these conditions makes the baby more vulnerable to RSV complications.

Heart problems: The heart pumps oxygen-filled blood throughout the body. RSV infection makes it harder for the baby to take in oxygen through the lungs. In healthy babies, the heart compensates by pumping harder to supply more oxygen to the body. But for babies with heart problems, the heart may not be able to work hard enough to compensate for the reduced oxygen.

Immune system problems: Babies whose immune systems are not working properly are more prone to serious complications from RSV because their immune system cannot help them fight off the infection.

Here is a quick checklist to help you determine whether your baby may be at risk of serious complications from RSV infection. Babies at higher risk include:

  • premature babies (born before 36 weeks of pregnancy)
  • babies with lung problems
  • babies with heart problems
  • babies whose immune systems are not functioning well (e.g., babies infected with HIV, babies with inherited immune system diseases, babies undergoing transplants or treatments for cancer)

If your baby has any of these risk factors, speak to your doctor about what you can do to reduce your baby's risk of serious health problems related to RSV.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Are-You-Ready-for-RSV-Season

How to prepare for RSV season

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season usually runs from November to April in Canada. Here's what you can do to prepare for RSV season:

Learn more about RSV. To make sure you're fully prepared, make sure you know how RSV is spread, its symptoms, signs of serious health problems related to RSV, when to seek medical attention (see "What do I need to know about RSV"), and how to reduce the risk of infection (see below). To find out more about getting informed, see "How to learn more about RSV."

Take steps to reduce the risk of RSV infection. RSV is spread by coughing and sneezing, by close physical contact, and through infected surfaces (such as toys). Secondhand smoke also increases the risk.

To reduce your baby's risk of infection:

  • Do not smoke. Make your home and car smokefree, and keep your baby away from secondhand smoke.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before touching your baby.
  • Keep your baby away from people who are sick with fevers or colds, especially if your baby is premature or under 2 months of age.
  • Keep countertops and other surfaces clean in your home, and wash toys frequently. Do not share drinking glasses.
  • Avoid crowded places where your baby will be exposed to large numbers of people. This will reduce the chances that your baby will come in contact with people infected with RSV.
  • If possible, breast-feed your baby for at least 6 months after birth. This can help reduce their risk of infections, including respiratory infections.
  • For babies at high risk of RSV complications (see "RSV complications: Is my baby at risk?"), a medication called palivizumab may be used to reduce the risk of serious infections with RSV. Side effects may include redness or swelling at the injection site, nervousness, or fever. Check with your doctor to see whether this option would be appropriate for your baby.

Talk to your doctor. Before RSV season starts, speak to your doctor about whether your baby is at risk of serious complications from RSV infection and, if so, what you can do to reduce your baby's risk.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Are-You-Ready-for-RSV-Season

How to learn more about RSV

Do your research. The other sections of this health feature and the RSV channel are a good place to start your research on RSV.

Other information resources for RSV include:

  • Hospital for Sick Children: About Kids' Health
  • Lung Association of Canada
  • RSV Shield

Work with your medical team. Your child's doctor can help you learn more about RSV. They can also help you apply the information you have learned in your research to make decisions about your child's care. It's especially important to talk to your doctor if you are concerned that your baby may be at risk of serious complications of RSV (see "RSV complications: Is my baby at risk?" to learn more). Nurses and pharmacists are also excellent resources for information on RSV.

Your health care professional may have questions about your child's health conditions, medications, allergies, and immunization status, so be sure to bring this information to your visit. Bring along a pen and paper to make notes during your visit.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Before your visit to a health care professional, make a note of any questions you may have about RSV. You may wish to use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for your visit to the doctor. The guide also includes a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Are-You-Ready-for-RSV-Season