Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Causes, Symptom and Treatment

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory Syncytial Virus  is a virus that causes severe infections in the lungs and generally the respiratory tract. It is a very common virus and it can be so easily gotten right from the age of 2 years. This virus not only affects children but it affects both teenagers and adults likewise.

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For adults and teenagers with a very good immune system and a very healthy body, this virus brings about mild symptoms. However, for people whom are not healthy, they are immuno compromised or are young children, the virus can cause severe symptoms and it can be really quite complicated for them.

In adults, it might only bring about the flu symptoms and likewise mimic the symptoms of cold, however, in preenies (premature babies), adults who are in their old age, infants, adults who are already immuno compromised, or anyone having a disease(s) affecting both the heart and the longs, it can cause severe complications for them.

Respiratory syncytial virus enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth (the three major openings in the body). It spreads easily and it is mostly airborne. When an infected person sneezes or coughs where and uninfected person is without taking prosper sanitary measures, the uninfected person might likely contract the virus.

The virus can also be passed through direct contact. If a person infected with the virus happens to clean a snort with his/her hands, doesn’t wash it and then proceeds to shake an uninfected person, the person will become infected.

This virus has the ability to live on table tops, cribs or any other hard object for hours without dying. Because of this ability, if you touch an infected table top, toy, baby crib or whatever hard object and you immediately touch either your eyes, nose or mouth without washing your hands thoroughly, then you will most likely contact the virus.

Within the first few days of infection, a person is most likely very contagious and contact with the person immediately means you are infected. However, after the first few days, the person may still be very contagious but not as severe as that of the first few days.

Risk factors

There are some certain risk factors that needs to be considered when it comes to this virus. People found in these categories really need to be careful and take the necessary precautions.

  1. Premature babies
  2. Young children with congenital heart defects as well as lung diseases.
  3. Children with cancers who are immuno-compromised due to the amount of chemotherapy they undergo. Also, kids who are undergoing transplantation also are at high risk.
  4. In facts and young children who are found in crowded living environments
  5. Adults between the ages of 50-70 years.
  6. Adults who already have a respiratory disease such as asthma, congestive heart failures, and lung diseases such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  7. People with any form of severe immuno deficiency. Those who have transplanted organs most especially the lungs as well as those who have an immune suppressing disease such as HIV.

Symptoms of RSV

For most people, the signs and symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus begins to manifest after about 4-7 days after initial exposure to the virus. In adults and children with normal healthy bodies, RSV virus will give out symptoms that mimics the flu.

Symptoms such as a block or running nose, Dry cough (the kind that doesn’t produce sputum or mucous), Mild fever, sore throats and slight headaches.

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However, in a case where the disease becomes so severe, the respiratory syncytial virus will spread to the lower respiratory tract and cause inflammation in the bronchi and the bronchioles hereby causing bronchitis, bronchiolitis as well as pneumonia.

Signs and symptoms to be expected in a patient with severe cases of RSV includes:

1. Intense fever

2. Severe cough

3. Wheezing: This is a high pitched kind of sound (almost like a whistle) that is heard when a person inhaled and exhaled deeply.

4. Rapid breathing. The patient might also experience intense difficulties in breathing and may need a respirator to aid in the breathing process. In children, it is mostly noticed when the child often prefers to sit up straight rather than lie down.

5. Cyanosis may begin to occur. In cases where the person has difficulties in breathing, this would lead to depletion of oxygen in the body hence a bluish coloration shows up on the skin which is a typical sign of cyanosis.

Note: Infants and babies are mostly affected by RSV. If your baby is having RSV, here are some certain signs you must take note of:

  1. Your baby’s skin around the chest as well as he/she’s chest muscles pull up when he/she inhales or exhales. This is a typical sign that your child is seriously struggling to breathe.
  2. Your child’s breathing might be short, shallow and and can be rapid as if he or she is panting.
  3. Severe cough.
  4. Lack of appetite.
  5. Unusual fatigue and tiredness.
  6. Your child may unusually become irritable.

For some children, RSV will probably resolve itself and they will likely recover within 1 or 2 weeks. Some however might keep showing signs of repeated wheezing. For premature babies, adults with a compromised immune system, adults who have chronic lung or heart disease may experience the severe form of RSV and may need to be admitted into the hospital.

There are however some complications that may result from this disease if it is not properly treated or diagnosed on time. This complications include:

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1. Asthma: There is a link between the severe form of respiratory syncytial virus and asthma. Those who had been diagnosed with RSV as children have been seen to have greater possibilities of developing asthma later in their life.

2. Pneumonia: The most common cause of inflammation of the lungs is the respiratory syncytial virus. In infants, it also causes bronchiolitis which occurs as a result of the infection spreading to the lower respiratory tract.

Most lung inflammation and swelling are very critical in infants, young kids, immuno compromised adults and teenagers as well as patients with lung and heart diseases.

3. Ear infection: A part of the ear which is precisely the middle ear can become infected. Once germs are able to pass through the tiny pores and spaces found within the ear drums, the patient can get otitis media(middle ear infection). It is most commonly known to occur in babies and young children.

4. Repetition of infections: Once a person has been infected with RSV, it is often most common for the disease to come back. It is quite possible for it to even happen not so long after the first infection caused by RSV had been treated.

5. Hospitalization: A chronic case of RSV might require a day or two spent in the hospital so that doctors can monitor the patients improvements as well as the breathing rate, pulse rate and heartbeat most especially if the person has a history of lung and heart problems.

To prevent this disease, you can add this to your list of routines:

1. Always wash your hands and teach your kids how to wash their hands properly.

2. Avoid exposing your child or infant to people who are having the flu or cold symptoms. You must be especially careful of your child is below 2years of age.

3. Ensure your table tops, baby cribs and other hard surfaces are clean and germ free.

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4. Avoid sharing drinking glasses with people most especially those with the symptoms of cold or the flu. Always ensure you use your own cups or disposable cups. Also ensure you teach your children not to share drinking cups and help the, properly label theirs so that they can identify which is their own.

5. Never smoke in front of your infants. Once they are inhaling the fumes from your cigar or tobacco, they become severely exposed to RSV and other breathing problems.

6. Ensure you wash your baby toys frequently and thoroughly especially the ones that have the tendency of entering their mouths.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker