With autumn going into full swing and winter coming up, you might have seen some parents pleading people not to kiss their babies. This may seem silly at first but there is a good reason behind it – Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis for young children and babies in the U.S. and RSV season is upon us.
Don’t feel guilty about asking people not to touch or kiss your babies…
Doctors are cautioning people to protect their babies and children from unnecessary contact with potentially sick people and every parent would be smart to heed this warning. According to the specialist at WebMD, RSV is easy to mistake with the common cold, especially at first, since their initial symptoms are quite similar – stuffed nose, coughing, and a slight fever (1). However, RSV quickly develops into a much more serious condition if the necessary prevention and treatment steps aren’t taken soon enough.
In addition to babies, children with chronic diseases are also at a higher risk of contracting RSV. The children who should be extra careful during RSV season are the ones already suffering from conditions such as:
- Neuromuscular disorders.
- Chronic lung or heart diseases.
- Weakened immune systems.
- Kids from premature births.
What are the symptoms of an RSV infection?
As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with RSV will display the first symptoms of the disease 4 to 6 days after contracting it (2). Additionally, they themselves will be contagious for 3 to 8 days.
The first symptoms will show up as a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, low fever, and loss of appetite. Symptoms in young infants include irritability, decreased activity, breathing difficulties (fast breathing, pushing the belly in and out, or flaring of the nostrils).
All of these symptoms are often mistaken with those of less dangerous conditions such as the common cold. This makes RSV hard to diagnose correctly when it happens.
How To Protect Your Child From RSV
Because RSV is so highly contagious, parents would do well to exercise extreme caution when they are outside with their babies and children. It can spread through coughing or sneezing near the child or by the child touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching their face.
So, what should you do? Here are the most important prevention steps:
- Keep away from public areas that are very crowded.
- Cover your child’s face with a scarf or something else when near sick or unknown people.
- Prevent your child from unnecessary contact with unclean surfaces.
- Maintain good hand hygiene.
- Don’t smoke near your child – tobacco smoke increases the risk of RSV in children.
Additionally, for others’ safety, it’s strongly recommended that you keep your children home when they are infected with RSV so that they don’t infect other kids at the daycare or school. Also, teach your children to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or their upper shirt sleeve when they are sneezing or coughing.
As for adults -- you are contagious up to 24 hours before you start showing symptoms! Please keep your mouths/breaths away from a baby’s face, hands, and feet. And remember, there is no cure for RSV, it just has to “run its course.” (4)