Is It a Cold or RSV?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While bed rest and fluids are adequate for a cold, RSV can be far more serious. How do you know if it’s a cold or RSV, and when should you take your child to see a pediatrician for RSV?

What is RSV?

Human respiratory syncytial virus, respiratory syncytial virus, or simply RSV is an illness that causes infections in the lungs or respiratory tract.

The virus can spread through the air – coughing or sneezing – through direct contact, or on surfaces. Infections occur when the virus enters through the eyes, nose, or mouth.

RSV is very common. Almost all children will have an RSV infection by the age of 2 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The biggest concern regarding RSV is that it can lead to severe respiratory infections, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia, which can be life threatening in babies. RSV is the most common cause of bronchitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 in the U.S.

Who can get RSV?

RSV can affect children and adults, but babies are at the highest risk for complications from RSV.

The symptoms are typically mild for older children and adults who are healthy. However, it can cause severe infections in babies, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

RSV symptoms look a lot like symptoms from the common cold.

    • coughing
    • congestion
    • fever
    • sore throat
    • headache
    • loss of appetite

RSV infections can also worsen existing conditions.

It can be more difficult to detect RSV symptoms in babies. Look for irritability, trouble feeding, lethargy, high fever, gray or blue skin color. difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or pauses in breathing while sleeping (apnea). Call your baby’s doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms.

How can you tell if it’s a cold or RSV?

RSV season lines up with cold and flu season. This can make it easy to dismiss RSV as just another cold. However, RSV can be more serious than a cold, especially for babies and those at higher risk for complications.

You won’t be able to tell the difference between a cold and respiratory syncytial virus in your home. You must to go to a healthcare professional to determine whether it’s a cold or RSV.

Babies are at the greatest risk for complications from RSV, especially premature infants, young infants, and babies with weakened immune systems, congenital heart disease, or congenital lung disease. If your child is under 6 months of age, or at a high risk for severe illness from RSV, talk to your child’s doctor at the first sign of symptoms.

Healthy children and adults don’t necessarily need to be treated by a medical professional for RSV; however, you should talk to your child’s pediatrician anytime you have concerns or questions about your child’s health. Schedule an appointment with a MANA pediatrician in Northwest Arkansas today.

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