Uh oh. Well maybe it’s nothing…
Ok that was a good one. That’s it, get it all out of the system. Two sneezes and off to wor…
Oh boy. What do I do now?
You’ve come to the right place. Here at Caduceus & PDQ Urgent Care we have you covered.
The first thing to know is that respiratory viruses are still on the rise – yes, other than COVID-19 – particularly Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. This is a highly contagious virus that can cause severe respiratory illness in children, pregnant women, and older adults.
RSV is a leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children and can be particularly dangerous for premature infants and those with underlying health conditions. Pregnant women and older adults with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk for severe RSV infection.
Symptoms of RSV infection may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and a runny nose. In severe cases, the virus can lead to hospitalization and, in rare cases, death.
But not to fear, because the next thing to know is that it is preventable. The best way to prevent RSV infection is to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with sick individuals.
Best Practices To Prevent Transmission of RSV
-Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home if you are feeling unwell.
-Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of used tissues immediately.
-Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, and light switches, daily to help prevent the spread of germs.
-Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, as this is how the virus can enter your body.
-Avoid crowded public places, especially during peak RSV season, which typically runs from late fall through early spring.
-Keep infants and young children away from people who are smoking or who have recently been in contact with smoke, as the virus can be inhaled in cigarette smoke.
-Avoid placing an infant in a car seat or stroller with a blanket, as the blanket can trap smoke and other pollutants close to the infant's face.
-If you are a parent or caregiver of an infant or young child, do not allow them to share pacifiers, bottles, cups, or eating utensils.
-If you are a healthcare worker or caregiver for high-risk individuals, wear a mask and gloves.
Let’s examine more who should be most careful during this RSV season.
Children are at the greatest risk for RSV infection, especially those under the age of two. Premature infants and those with chronic lung or heart conditions are particularly vulnerable to the virus. It is important for parents to be aware of the symptoms of RSV and to seek medical attention if their child is showing signs of infection.
Pregnant women are also at increased risk for severe RSV infection, as the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery. Pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid exposure to the virus, such as avoiding crowded places and washing their hands frequently.
Older adults, especially those over the age of 65, are also at increased risk for severe RSV infection. This is because the immune system weakens with age, making it harder for the body to fight off the virus. Older adults should take steps to protect themselves from RSV, such as getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene.
GroupRisk for RSV infection-
-Children under 2 High
-Premature infants High
-Children with chronic lung or heart conditions High
-Pregnant women High
-Older adults over 65 High
In terms of treatment, it’s important to know that there is no specific cure for RSV infection; which is why prevention is so important. Early monitoring by a health professional for those at high risk is the best approach. You can augment your monitoring at home with a pulse oximeter: typical numbers should be above 95% – and contact your healthcare team right away for numbers less than 90%.
Supportive care for fever and pain can be provided with medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin). Most individuals with the virus will recover on their own within a few weeks. However, severe cases may require hospitalization and supportive care, such as oxygen therapy and fluids.
Also remember, your cough and sneeze might not be RSV at all. As a recent LA Times article advised us, we are currently facing a triple threat of respiratory viruses: RSV, COVID-19, and Influenza. While the symptoms may be similar, there are some key differences between the three infections.
Symptoms of RSV infection may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and a runny nose.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and fever. Other common symptoms include loss of taste or smell, body aches, and fatigue.
Symptoms of influenza, or the flu, may include fever, body aches, and a cough. Other common symptoms include chills, fatigue, and a sore throat.
Infection (Common symptoms) (Incubation period)
-COVID-19 (Coughing, difficulty breathing, fever) (2-14 days)
-Influenza (flu) (Fever, body aches, cough) (1-4 days)
-RSV (Coughing, difficulty breathing, runny nose) (1-7 days)
One key difference between the three infections is that some individuals with COVID-19 may not have any symptoms at all, while symptoms of influenza and RSV infection are typically present. Additionally, the incubation period (the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms) is typically shorter for RSV and influenza than for COVID-19.
In summary, RSV is a highly contagious virus that can cause severe respiratory illness in children, pregnant women, and older adults. To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to practice good hygiene and avoid close contact with sick individuals. To have that cough or sneeze examined we at Caduceus & PDQ Urgent Care are here for you with our online chat, same-day urgent care appointments, and telehealth checks from the comfort of home.
Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, MSHP, FACOG
Chief Medical Officer | Caduceus Medical Group
January 13, 2023