Respiratory Syncytial Virus-RSV: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Know that RSV is common in children but it can affect the adults as well.

3 min read
Respiratory Syncytial Virus-RSV:  Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a diseases that affects the lungs and the respiratory system. It is an infection that commonly affects children by the age of 2. Research has also proven that the Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus can also infect adults.

In adults or children, RSV symptoms can be mild and appear similar to symptoms of a cold, and usually, it disappears on its own with proper care.

RSV can cause severe infection in some cases, including babies of 12 months and infants, especially premature infants, older adults, people with heart and lung disease, or people with a weak immune system.

In general, people take RSV symptoms as a common cold thus we are here to highlight the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for RSV.


RSV: Signs & Symptoms

According to the doctors of Mayo Clinic, common signs and symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus infection or RSV commonly appear about four to six days after exposure to the virus. RSV usually causes mild cold-like signs and symptoms including:

  • Congestion

  • Runny Nose

  • Dry Cough

  • Mild fever

  • Sore throat

  • Sneezing

  • Headache

  • Wheezing

  • Rapid breathing

  • Skin turning blue due to lack of oxygen

Most children and adults recover from the condition in one to two weeks but severe or life-threatening infection may require a hospital stay.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Causes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the respiratory syncytial virus enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. It can spread through infected respiratory droplets in the air or your child can become infected if someone with RSV coughs or sneezes near you. The virus also spreads through direct contact like shaking hands.

The virus lives for hours on hard objects and if you touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after touching the contaminated surface, you may fall sick and get infected with RSV. An infected person is most contagious during the first week or so after infection.
According to the CDC, people that are at a higher risk of being infected by RSV include:

  • Children suffering from heart disease or chronic lung disease since birth

  • Children or adults with weakened immune systems from diseases such as cancer or treatment such as chemotherapy

  • Children suffering from neuromuscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophy

  • Adults with heart disease or lung disease

  • Older adults above 65


RSV: Diagnosis

Since the symptoms of RSV are similar to a cold, your doctor may not take any specific tests but your doctor may suspect RSV based on your medical history, time of year, and a physical exam. They may run lab tests to confirm the diagnosis. The most common tests include a mouth swab or a blood test to check white blood cell counts and confirm the presence of viruses.

In severe RSV cases, diagnosis tests may include imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan for lung complications. Blood and urine cultures for infants as RSV-related bronchiolitis can occur with a urinary tract infection in newborns.

RSV: Treatment 

Most RSV infections do not need any specific treatment and the symptoms may disappear on their own within a week or two. There is no specific treatment for RSV infection, though researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals. You can manage the pain and fever with these ways:

  • Over-the-counter medicines can help manage fever and pain and these medicines may include fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Make sure the patient drinks enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).

  • Make sure to consult a doctor before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines because few medicines may contain ingredients that are not good for children.

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