A mother cares for her child who is suffering from RSV

RSV Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention: A Comprehensive Guide

Throughout the Northeast, RSV cases are on the rise. Experts are predicting that the upcoming RSV season will include higher case numbers than usual.

Fortunately, this does not have to lead to fear. At Live Urgent Care, we focus on patient education to drive positive healthcare outcomes. This article will outline the basics of RSV to prepare you for the upcoming season.

What Is RSV?

A child runs a fever due to an RSV infection

Respiratory Syncytial Virus, commonly known as RSV, is a disease that affects the lower respiratory tract, particularly impacting the smaller airways. RSV is highly contagious in part because of its ability to survive on surfaces for several hours. Transmission can also occur from breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person.

The typical RSV season in the United States lasts from November to April with peak case numbers occurring in December and January. We are currently seeing RSV case numbers increase throughout the country. This disease particularly affects young children with most cases occurring in children under two years old. 50% of children will contract RSV before they turn one.

RSV poses a particular risk to patients over the age of 65. Patients over the age of 65, especially those with cardiopulmonary disease and the immunocompromised, have fatality rates ranging between 2% and 18%. This underscores the need to understand prevention techniques.

RSV Symptoms

A sick child lays on a couch with an RSV infection as his mother calls her local urgent care clinic.

The most common symptom of RSV is a cough that progresses over one to two days. Other common symptoms include runny nose and fever. 

A few other symptoms to consider are difficulty breathing, wheezing and tiredness. General fatigue may be a sign that the infection is progressing. 

Where is RSV Rising?

RSV cases are rising around the country. In New Jersey alone, cases of RSV tripled throughout the month of October. This rise is projected to continue as we head into peak RSV season.

The rise in case numbers should not be worrying, but it should act as a reminder to be aware. While a number of viral pathogens have dominated healthcare conversation, it is important for parents to stay aware of RSV symptoms and consider it as potentially the cause of a child’s illness.

How is RSV Diagnosed?

A woman receives a PCR test to detect for RSV

Fortunately, RSV can be diagnosed in a few very simple ways. Similar to covid testing, RSV tests are offered through rapid antigen and RT-PCR testing. While both testing options can be effective, rapid antigen testing is far less sensitive in detecting RSV than an RT-PCR.

At Live Urgent Care, we offer both RSV tests. Our 4-plex test uses a single nasal swab that tests for covid, flu A+B and RSV in an RT-PCR test. 4-plex testing allows you to test for the most common viral pathogens in a single test.

How is RSV Treated?

In most cases, treatment comes down to supportive care. This includes drinking plenty of liquids to stay hydrated and resting as needed. The main vital sign to monitor is oxygen saturation as RSV does impact airways.

A number of corticosteroids and nebulizer treatments have been tested without any promising results for treating RSV. If oxygen levels drop below 90%, oxygen treatments and hospitalization for close monitoring may be required.

How To Prevent RSV?

The severity of RSV, particularly in young children and adults over 65, makes prevention even more important. Below are a few helpful tips for preventing the spread of RSV.

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly
  • Stay home when you feel sick

When to Get RSV Treatment

A mother brings her sick daughter to an urgent care to check for RSV.

If you suspect RSV, Live Urgent Care can help. At Live Urgent Care, we offer 4-plex testing to quickly diagnose RSV in children as young as six months old. Our board-certified providers can evaluate your symptoms and help map out the best treatment course for your family. Walk in or book ahead at any of our urgent care clinics today.

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