Does your child seem to have a cold, but the symptoms just aren’t improving, or they’re getting worse over time? They could have respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common viral infection that can become quite severe.
RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But for young children, the virus can quickly go from bad to worse. In fact, in the US, RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis, or inflammation of the lung’s airways, in children under 1.
At Wasatch Peak Family Practice in Layton, Utah, our pediatric providers are here to help you recognize and understand the signs of RSV so you can get your child the help they need. Keep reading as we explore this viral infection in more detail.
RSV versus the common cold
RSV and the common cold share many symptoms, and both illnesses are caused by a virus. But they differ in terms of the potential severity of illness and the areas of the respiratory tract they affect.
A common cold usually causes symptoms in the upper respiratory tract, like the nose and throat. This causes the familiar cold symptoms we all recognize: a runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing. Although they can be uncomfortable, common colds usually resolve in 1-2 weeks and don’t cause severe health issues.
RSV, on the other hand, frequently affects the lower respiratory tract, such as the airways leading to the lungs and the lungs themselves. Symptoms, especially in young children and infants, can be severe.
Being informed about the differences and the RSV signs to watch for can help you better understand when to call your Wasatch Peak Family Practice pediatrician for advice or medical attention.
Understanding RSV signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of RSV can range from mild to severe and frequently look like those of the common cold. The more severe your child’s symptoms and the longer they have them, the more likely it is they have RSV. Here’s a closer look:
Congestion and runny nose
Like the common cold, RSV triggers congestion and a runny nose. In fact, these are usually the first symptoms parents notice. Your child may have a runny or stuffy nose, which can make it difficult for them to breathe or eat.
Coughing and wheezing
For children with RSV, a persistent cough often follows congestion. Their cough may be dry or mucus-filled, and it will probably get worse at night. You might also notice your child start wheezing, a high-pitched whistling sound that happens when they breathe.
Not all children with RSV develop a fever, but in very young children and infants, the development of a high temperature combined with other symptoms can be a sign of this infection.
Reduced appetite or trouble nursing
Because of the difficulty in breathing and general discomfort RSV causes, you might notice your child eating or drinking less than usual or refusing to nurse. In severe RSV cases, children can become dehydrated. Be sure to call your Wasatch Peak Family Practice provider if you notice this symptom.
Seeking medical help for RSV
RSV symptoms can be similar to those of the common cold or flu, but RSV can lead to the development of more severe disease, like bronchiolitis and pneumonia, which can be serious for babies and children with underlying health issues.
For this reason, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician if you suspect your child has RSV. Trust your instincts. If your child is showing signs of RSV and you're feeling uneasy, the Wasatch Peak Family Practice team is here to help. Our main priority is your child’s health and your peace of mind.
Have more questions about RSV and what to look for? Get answers by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at Wasatch Peak Family Practice today.