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RSV Season is Here - Tips on How to Avoid and Prevent this Respiratory Disease

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 4, 2013) – Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a viral infection of the lungs and breathing passages that typically peaks in the winter and begins to decline in early spring. According to St. Joseph's Children’s Hospital Pediatric Pulmonologist David Rosenberg, M.D., RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children younger than 1, and virtually all children contract it by the age of 3.

“In most cases, RSV causes mild, cold-like symptoms, such as nasal stuffiness, cough, wheeze and sometimes an ear infection,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “But in premature babies and children with compromised immune systems, RSV can develop into serious respiratory conditions like pneumonia and bronchiolitis.”

Treating RSV
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 125,000 of the children who are diagnosed with RSV each year require hospitalization. Fortunately, most cases of RSV are mild and require no specific treatment from doctors. With a mild case of RSV, your pediatrician may recommend that you treat your child’s symptoms at home in the same way that you would treat a bad cold.

In more serious cases, medication may be prescribed to help your child breathe more easily or hospitalization may be required. If your baby is at high risk for developing RSV, such as being premature or having a heart or lung disease, the physician may recommend a medication that can be injected monthly to help prevent it.

Preventing RSV
RSV is very contagious, and the virus can live on hands and clothing, as well as on hard surfaces like countertops and doorknobs. It can spread through tiny droplets that go into the air when a sick person blows their nose, coughs or sneezes.

“Just like it’s hard to keep from catching a cold, it can be very hard to keep from catching RSV,” said Dr. Rosenberg. To prevent the spread of RSV, Dr. Rosenberg recommends the following: 

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your infant, and ask others to do the same. 
  • Keep your infant away from crowds, especially young children. 
  • Keep people with cold symptoms away from your infant. 
  • Wash your infant's toys and bedding often. 
  • Do not smoke near your child, and do not let others smoke near your child. Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of RSV. 
  • Make sure countertops are clean in the kitchen and bathrooms, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Discard used tissues right away.

Editor’s Note: RSV is most common during the winter months, and Dr. Rosenberg is available for interviews as the season gets underway. Contact Amy Gall at (813) 870-4731 to schedule an interview.

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