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RSV cases are currently on the rise in Minnesota and 43 other states in America. In addition to RSV, Doctors have also seen a simultaneous rise in COVID-19 and Flu cases. The prevalence of all three viruses at the same time has become known as the “tripledemic.”

Since RSV is lesser known than COVID and the Flu, LX Co-founder and Physician Associate, Aundria Riggen sat down to answer the most common questions about RSV including prevention, symptoms, and treatment.

What is RSV?

RSV is short for Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-Uhl) virus. Symptoms from RSV usually include:

  • congestion
  • fever
  • headache
  • cough

In severe or untreated cases, RSV can progress into wheezing or bronchitis.

Why can RSV be so dangerous for small children?

RSV is dangerous for those under two, especially premature or immune-compromised infants because it causes inflammation in the lungs. Younger infants and children have a lower tolerance for this type of inflammation and their airway is smaller which can cause more severe symptoms. Also, RSV tends to cause a fair amount of drainage and younger children and infants have a harder time clearing it from their chests and throat. 

Why is RSV on the rise?

It’s not uncommon for RSV to spike this time of year. Mask and gathering restrictions have lessened therefore all viruses will be on the rise. We are also getting an increase in influenza. We haven’t seen much of either of these for 2 years so this Winter could be worse than in the years prior.

What is RSV vs. Enterovirus? 

RSV and enterovirus have very similar symptoms. Typically enterovirus is considered the “common cold” and tends to have more mild symptoms and is less concerning for infants but all viruses have the potential to turn into something serious.

rsv symptoms and prevention
Knowing the symptoms of RSV can help you prevent it from becoming something more serious.

Is it important to know the difference between the various respiratory illnesses, and when should parents see a doctor, schedule a telehealth eVisit, or head to urgent care or the Emergency Department? 

It is not necessary to know which virus you have because all are treated similarly. By similarly, I mean, symptomatically. For example, if you have a fever treat the fever, if you have congestion treat that. Knowing what virus you have can help with predicting its course, knowing what precautions to take, etc. Also, some viruses have antivirals like influenza and COVID. 

What red flags signal a trip to the ED or calling 9-1-1? 

The number one red flag to look for is respiratory distress. It can be difficult to tell with infants, but there are some really important signs to look for. The first thing to look for is called retractions, which is when the infant is working so hard to breathe that you can see depression around their neck. The second sign of respiratory distress is abdominal breathing or accessory breathing. This is when the breathing is so restricted they are having to use other muscles to get air to move through. The last sign of respiratory distress is breathing rate; when oxygen levels decrease breathing rate increases to compensate.  

Is there anything parents can do to prevent their children from being hospitalized? 

Suctioning the nose, increasing hydration, and working to reduce the fever can help.  

How are respiratory viruses spread and how can we prevent the spread?

 RSV is spread by respiratory droplets and is prevented the same way as COVID. Prevention includes:

  • washing hands
  • avoiding large crowds
  • wearing a mask
  • avoiding those that appear sick  

Can older kids and adults get RSV? 

Absolutely, children of any age can get RSV but we often don’t hear about it in other ages due to two major reasons: 1. we often don’t test 2. RSV tends to be milder in older children, so we often think of it as just a mild cold.

When it’s 2 am and a child is sick, how can you best use a telehealth visit? 

Typically seeing a child that has concerning symptoms in person is best, but talking through those concerning symptoms can be helpful. Things to note when assessing over the phone: is the child lethargic, do they show signs of respiratory distress, retractions, or abdominal breathing?

RSV Testing & Treatment

If you suspect you, a friend, or a family member has RSV, contact us immediately. We can test for 30 viruses including RSV, the Flu, and COVID with just one swab with a Biofire Viral Panel Test.

Testing provides peace of mind, treatment protocol, and helps avoid the overuse of antibiotics.