There’s a lot of buzz about RSV these days. Like me, you may have seen several articles being shared around your newsfeed talking about RSV season and protecting the babies.
But what exactly is RSV? And what do we need to know about it to keep our kids safe this cold and flu season?
RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a common respiratory infection that causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.
The thing about RSV is that while it may present itself as the common cold in adults, this sneaky little virus can wreak havoc on young children without us ever even seeing signs of it.
In an article titled, “How RSV Changed the Way I Parent,” Shanisty Ireland recalls the time that her two older children were passing the nasty virus back and forth.
With her oldest, he suffered from just a cough for about a week. He never ran a fever and as quickly as it had hit, the virus had left. Or rather, it had been passed on to her 2-year-old daughter.
“It hit her much harder,” Ireland writes. “She ran a high-grade fever for four days and nights. The nasty cough caused her to vomit. She wasn’t eating and felt extremely lethargic.” As if that wasn’t enough, she also developed an ear infection. After two weeks and SEVEN trips to the pediatrician, it would seem that all was right with the world again—at least, in the Ireland home.
Except it wasn’t. Ireland says she was “extremely naive” to think that her youngest son, a newborn named Adam, would be safe from the germs being passed around by his siblings because of all the nutrients he was receiving from breastfeeding.
Assuming he would have “extra immunities,” Ireland says she hadn’t even noticed how sick her son was until the peak of his illness.
On a visit to her parent’s house, Ireland’s dad recognized something in the newborn to know that he was sick. Sleep-deprived and unable to even think about having one more sick child, Ireland was confused by his concern. Adam hadn’t run a fever, there was no cough or sniffles. Nothing out of the norm for her little babe.
But that evening, everything changed. Adam began coughing up terrible phlegm and struggling to breathe.
Over the next few days, she took him to the pediatrician twice. They swabbed his nose and he tested positive for RSV.
“‘What is RSV?’ I asked a tech. She couldn’t tell me and just said to watch him closely. I should have pressed the pediatrician’s office more, but I felt kind of dumb,” Ireland says. “This was my ninth visit in two weeks. So I left.”