Smart Woman: Respiratory Syncytial Virus Awareness

Published 01/22 2014 05:44PM

Updated 01/22 2014 05:48PM

With cold weather comes seasonal viruses such as the flu, but parents also need to be aware of another type of virus that could be dangerous to children.

A recent up tick in RSV has a number of babies sick and hospitalized.

The symptoms look a lot like the common cold, but RSV can be much more dangerous.

"It's called Respiratory Syncytial Virus, so it infects the respiratory tract. Most people who get it think they have a cold they will get fever, a cough, and sneezing," says Dr. Christine Hamilton, with MedExpress, Terre Haute.

Symptoms end without treatment for most adults, but don't be fooled the virus is more severe for babies and toddlers.

"Babies are small, their airways are smaller so anything that cause swelling, inflammation, mucus, causes plugging of the airways more easily just because of their size," says Dr. Hamilton

While most cases are mild, each year up to 175,000 children younger than five are hospitalized, and each year RSV kills as many as 500 little ones.

"There can be swelling and spasming in mucus production. It can compromise the lung function enough to cause death in some cases," says Dr. Hamilton.

The severity of RSV is a scary reminder to be on the look out for warning signs.

"If the baby gets sick and seems to be congested and coughing a lot watch and count the number of times per minute the baby is breathing, and if it gets up to 50, 60, 70, that's a sign you should probably head for the emergency room," says Dr. Hamilton.

So far, the CDC calls this year typical, but some regions of the country are seeing a spike in cases.

There is no drug to treat RSV, but most doctors recommend breathing treatments.

Similar to the flu this virus also spreads easy and lives on surfaces.

Just like for everything else, make sure to wash hands and stay away from crowded areas, especially if you're feeling symptoms.

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