Read more about this seasonal illness to learn how to provide care at home and when your child should see the doctor.
Have you heard of RSV? It stands for respiratory syncytial virus. Cases of this common seasonal virus are starting earlier than usual in the Pacific Northwest.
Season starting early
"We are definitely seeing a rise in diagnosed cases in the emergency department and primary care clinics,” said Catherine Kroll, director of infection prevention at PeaceHealth. “While we haven’t seen hospitalizations rise, it’s worrisome since we’re seeing the increase much earlier than we did before the pandemic."
Serena Black, MD, medical director of children’s services and a pediatric hospitalist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Oregon, explained, “RSV is a winter virus that usually appears from November through the spring.”
“RSV has been around for a long time, and some seasons are worse than others,” she said. “This season could be a bad one. RSV season has begun in Washington and Oregon, and although cases are still low in Alaska, they could rise at any time.”
Medical providers saw fewer respiratory viruses in children in the last few years because families were following helpful habits to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Now with everyone basically back to business as usual there is potential for greater spread of RSV and other respiratory viruses,” Dr. Black noted.
Symptoms to watch for
The main symptoms of RSV are similar to a cold. RSV is often mild and will usually go away on its own. But the illness can be especially hard on younger children.
If you see the following symptoms, call your child’s doctor:
- Fever in babies younger than 2 months old
- Cough or congestion making it hard to eat or sleep
- Breathing harder or faster than usual
- Taking little fluids and diapers that are less wet than usual
Care at home
According to the CDC, there is no specific treatment for an RSV infection. Here are a few ways to provide care at home:
- Keep the room temperature comfortable—not hot or dry.
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to the room to help your little one breathe.
- Gently suction a stuffy nose. (Watch a video on how to use a nasal aspirator or suction bulb.)
- Regularly offer breastmilk, formula or water.
- Encourage rest as much as possible.
Ask your doctor about other things you can do to help your child breathe easier.
Steps to prevent illness
To prevent the spread of RSV and other illnesses, Dr. Black encourages families to continue to follow habits that can help keep them healthy, including:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Consider wearing masks in public, especially in crowded settings.
- Stay home when ill.
- When possible, delay visits with people who are sick.