Protecting Yourself From RSV

Well folks, it’s that time of year again… I’m not referring to the holidays but cold and flu season.  As you listen to the media, you will hear all about H1N1 virus, the bird flu or even mad cow disease but there are literally thousands of viruses out there ready to make you and your family sick.  In my miniseries, I will highlight a few of these viruses and how you can protect yourself and your family.

Our virus of the month is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, commonly known as RSV.  This virus is most common in the winter and early spring and can be highly contagious (spread easily from person to person).  RSV can affect any age group but is most serious in young infants and children or adults with heart or breathing problems or those people who have depressed immune systems.  Illness usually occurs within 5-8 days after a child is exposed to the secretions of an infected person. RSV is spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading the droplets into the air and onto surfaces.

For most children, RSV will simply seem like a “bad cold” with nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat.  The child may cough and sneeze.  The infected child will probably have a low grade fever.   Children may also have otitis media (an ear infection).  For most children, who are healthy normally, the illness will run its course and they will feel better in 5-6 days after the first symptoms occur.

For very young infants ( newborn to 3 months) or children whose immune systems are depressed, the illness can progress to bronchitis, pneumonia or even in extreme cases respiratory arrest.  Children may need to be hospitalized for oxygen therapy, IV fluids or treatment with a special aerosol medication.

Now that you know what RSV is, how do you prevent it?  The number one preventative measure is to WASH YOUR HANDS! And teach your children to wash their hands too.  Other methods to avoid getting sick are as follows;

  • Avoid places where large number of people gather – shopping centers, social events at schools or churches or public buildings
  • Teach your children to cover their cough/sneeze.
  • Keep your children home from school or day care if they are sick
  • Eat healthy balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain your fluid intake

If you follow these easy guidelines, you will decrease your family’s chance of getting sick but remember, if in doubt, see your physician or go to an outpatient clinic.  Only a healthcare provider can diagnose a serious illness.

Here’s to a healthy, happy winter season for you and your family!

Julie Hobgood, R.N. can be reached at or by calling 866-866-8984

Information on RSV was collected from Mosby’s Pediatric Nursing Reference 2nd Edition