Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a viral illness that affects the respiratory passages – the nose and lungs. It is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezing.

Common symptoms of RSV include:

  • Mild to Moderate Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Fever (100.4 F or higher)
  • Diarrhea

What Makes RSV Different From Other Viral Illnesses?
In adults and children over 5-years-old, RSV can appear as the common cold; however, for children under 5, RSV can cause serious illness. RSV causes the creation of excess mucus, which can quickly make breathing difficult for a young child by overloading their lungs and nose. According to the CDC, up to 80,000 children are hospitalized in the United States with RSV each year.

Complications of RSV:

  • Croup – coughing that sounds like a seal or dog “bark”
  • Wheezing – may be a “whistling” sound when your child breathes
  • Stridor – a “whoop” when a child breathes
  • Dehydration – children may refuse to drink due to frequent coughing
  • Trouble Breathing – a child may gasp for air

Is There an RSV Vaccine?
A new vaccine for RSV called Beyfortus was released earlier this year. It is recommended for all children under the age of 8 months. Unfortunately, due to limited availability, the RSV vaccine is not available at Opal Court Pediatrics or at local pharmacies. We hope to have this vaccine available next year once it is available.

How Do I Know If My Child Has RSV?
It can be challenging to determine if your child has RSV at home. During RSV season, between November and April, we recommend all children under one-year-old with cold-like symptoms be tested. In addition, children with underlying conditions, such as asthma, are at risk for severe symptoms with RSV and should also be tested. Children 6 months and younger are at an increased risk of complications due to smaller airways and lack of immunity.
At Opal Court Pediatrics we offer rapid testing for RSV*. We simply swab your child’s nostril and receive test results back in 15 minutes! If we know your child has RSV, we can better anticipate their needs.

What Can I Do If I Think My Child Has RSV?
If your child has cold-like symptoms they may have RSV. Opal Court makes it easy for you to determine the best medical course of action to take.

  1. Call and schedule an appointment with any of our 6 amazing pediatric providers. We take same-day sick appointments starting at 8am. Our number is (301) 791-6666.
  2. Call and speak to one of our pediatric nurses who can give advice on managing your child’s illness at home and, if needed, determine if your child needs to be seen at our office.
  3. Calling after hours? For established patients, we have a provider on-call for after the office closes. After 10 pm, a provider is available to answer your questions regarding urgent medical issues. They can help determine if your child needs to seek medical care at a local Emergency Room (ER), an urgent care facility or with Opal Court Pediatrics the next day.

How Can I Manage My Child At Home?
For older children and adolescents, RSV will likely resemble a cold or viral illness. RSV starts as a mild cold, but then symptoms often worsen on day 4. Supportive care is often helpful to alleviate symptoms, including fever, congestion, aches and mild discomfort. We recommend the

  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen, for 6 months or older) – Use to reduce fever and mild discomfort. Dosage is based on the child’s weight or age. See recommended dosage on product labeling or packaging.
  • Nasal Suctioning – Use to clear mucus from the nose. The device can be manual or electric. Frida is a popular brand that many parents use.
  • Nasal Saline – Excess mucus may make it challenging for your child to breathe. Saline can help thin mucus in the nose. This may make suctioning easier. May use up to 3 times a day.
  • Electrolyte Drinks (Pedialyte) – Provides nutrients such as sugar and essential electrolytes that can help keep your child hydrated. Always ask your provider about hydration for children under the age of 6 months.
  • Honey– For children over the age of 1 year, honey can help soothe sore throats and coughs. May be added to warm liquids such as tea for added soothing effects. Honey is found in popular brands like Zarbees Cough Syrup.

We do not recommend the routine use of over-the-counter (OTC) antitussive medications for children.

If your child’s symptoms worsen or fail to improve we recommend that you call our office for an appointment. Worrisome signs include:

  • Less than 3 wet diapers in 24 hours or 2 voids for an older child in 24 hours
  • Fever (101 F or higher) unresponsive to fever reducers
  • Rapid breathing, nasal flaring, gasping for air
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive coughing leading to vomiting or refusal to drink fluids

Written By: Kira Hartman, CRPNP-PC
Kira Hartman is a Certified Registered Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, specializing in Primary Care (CRPNP-PC) at Opal Court Pediatrics. She graduated from Kent State University with a Master of Science in Nursing, specializing in primary care for children 0-21 years old. Her other degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Xavier University, and a Bachelor in Science in Biology from Denison University. Her special area of interest includes the treatment of allergies and asthma.

Disclaimer: The advice in this blog is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, if your child is experiencing health issues. Always consult with your medical provider regarding any health issues your child may be experiencing. In the event of a medical emergency call 9-1-1 or proceed to the nearest Emergency Room (ER).

* Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to provide in-office RSV testing for patients with United Healthcare insurance. We are able to provide testing at a nearby lab if needed. We hope to resolve this issue in the future.