January through March marks peak season for respiratory syncytial virus—known more commonly as RSV. So what is RSV? While this virus may seem like the common cold, it isn’t. Back in October 2018, celeb parents Nick and Vanessa Lachey shared their own harrowing experience when their newborn preemie son Phoenix contracted RSV shortly after he was born and had to be hospitalized.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want to make sure parents understand the signs and symptoms of this potentially dangerous illness as RSVP season ramps up. Read on for the scoop.

Photo: Rawpixel via Unsplash 

What Is RSV?

RSV is a very common virus that tends to peak in early winter each year. Anyone—including adults and babies—can get the virus. However, it doesn’t always affect everyone in the same way.

A healthy older child, teen or adult may have mild cold-like symptoms. But an infant, the elderly or anyone who has a compromised immune system may experience more serious symptoms. According to the CDC, 57,000 children under five-years-old are hospitalized annually with RSV infections.

Children under one year may develop bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the lungs’ small airways) or even pneumonia. This isn’t to say that RSV will progress into these often-severe illnesses in every infant. But kiddos under age one are more at risk.

Is There an RSV Vaccine?

Vaccination is an easy way to prevent your child from getting any number of dangerous diseases. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for RSV currently. But you can take steps to protect your child. The CDC recommends washing your hands often—and your child’s too. Also, skip the playdates with kids who might be sick and teach your kids not to touch their face as it spreads germs. For grownups, make sure you disinfect surfaces often.

Another important pro-tip: if you or your child get sick, stay home. This helps your child’s teachers, friends at school, neighbors, the bagger at the grocery store, the attendant at the indoor play-space and everyone else stay healthy.

How Do I Know if My Kid Has RSV?

RSV typically presents with mild cold-like symptoms. These can include:

  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite

Your child may have a few or all of the symptoms, but typically not all at the same time. Infants and young children may also seem irritable or particularly fussy.

When Should We See a Doctor?

The best answer: when in doubt, see your healthcare professional, whether you think it’s a cold, RSV or even the flu. There’s really no substitute for qualified medical advice. (Read: Call your actually doc instead of paging Dr. Google.)

If your child is lethargic, wheezing, has a fever, has trouble breathing, won’t eat or drink or just doesn’t seem right, always call your pediatrician immediately.

—Erica Loop



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