RSV: Don't wait until your child has it to learn what it is

RSV: Don't wait until your child has it to learn what it is

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's another acronym that you may not think twice about, but it's important to know what RSV stands for.

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. Most people don't know what it is until their child has it.  It's a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and even older adults.

RSV can be fatal for infants, especially those born prematurely. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than age 1 in the United States, and leads to thousands of hospitalizations each year.

Alex McCoy's daughter, 9 week old Isla, is one of those children. A week ago, McCoy knew something was wrong when Isla wasn't herself.

"She's a happy baby and normally she doesn't fuss at all," mother Alex McCoy said.  "We went from going to the pediatrician's office with a possible slight ear infection to a baby intubated on a ventilator within less than 24 hours."

Isla tested positive for RSV.

"Babies can get RSV any time of year, but it's most common from November to April," said Dr. William Weber, a pediatrician with Norton Children's Medical Associates in Fern Creek. "In fact, we're seeing cases in our office."

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"It could have come from our older son from day care," McCoy said. "It could have come from any member of our family, could have come from me touching something at the grocery store and then wiping her nose."

It's a viral illness so, antibiotics have no effect.

"It can go from cold like symptoms to respiratory distress," Dr. Weber said.

"Her little belly, when she would breathe would suck in so hard you could see her ribs," McCoy said.

"Less than five percent of babies will end up in the hospital with it," Dr. Weber said. "Usually they require oxygen to help them breathe or IV fluids because they aren't eating or drinking."

There are steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV:

• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
• Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others.

"Ideally, anyone with cold-like symptoms shouldn't interact with children at high risk for RSV, including premature infants, kids younger than 2 years with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems," Weber said. "If that's unavoidable, proper handwashing is key."

Parents of children at high risk for developing severe RSV should help their child by:

• Avoiding close contact with sick people
• Washing their hands often with soap and water
• Not touching their faces with unwashed hands
• Limiting time they spend in child care centers or other potentially contagious settings, especially during fall, winter and spring

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