RSV—or Respiratory Syncytial Virus—is very common and is spread easily from person to person. It usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. Anyone can spread RSV, and virtually all children are exposed to it by age 2, most without serious symptoms.
However, RSV can be dangerous for infants and certain young children. The virus settles in the lower lungs and can lead to bronchiolitis (inflammation in the lungs) and pneumonia. Although common, RSV has been making news lately because, after more than 2 1/2 years of modified pandemic behavior, more infants and toddlers are being exposed to it for the first time, causing higher than normal numbers of severe infections.
Here are the three most important things you need to know to lower the risk of RSV for yourself, your family and others around you.
A. Know your risk: Infants born prematurely and those up to six months, as well as young children with a chronic lung or heart disease or a weakened immune system, are most susceptible to severe infection. An estimated 58,000-80,000 children age 5 and younger are hospitalized with RSV in a normal year.
RSV can make breathing difficult. Those infected may not get enough oxygen. Some adults show no symptoms, but runny nose, decrease in appetite, cough that may progress to wheezing and difficulty breathing can occur with infections among all ages. Infants may only show symptoms of irritability, decreased activity and appetite, and apnea (pause in breathing for more than 10 seconds). Fever may or may not be present.
B. Know how to prevent the spread: Because RSV can be spread by anyone, adults should take precautions around high-risk groups. With RSV infections rising and expected winter waves of COVID-19 and flu, prevention can lower the burden on local hospitals and help them keep up with the need.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges many of the same preventive measures as with COVID-19:
- Frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact—kissing, sharing cups or eating utensils—with sick people who have cold-like symptoms.
- Cover coughs (mouth) and sneezes (nose) with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs and mobile devices.
- Stay home from work, school, daycare and public areas when sick.
- Masking, social distancing, and limiting holiday gathering size will all help prevent spreading RSV and protect those most at risk.
C. Know your care & treatment options and make a plan: If your child is in a high-risk group and experiencing RSV symptoms, talk with your doctor. Most Regence health plans cover telehealth care so members can schedule a virtual appointment with a doctor to prevent spreading the virus further. Ask your doctor about getting a prescription for Olseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is used to treat flu symptoms.
When to go to the ER: If you spot symptoms of oxygen deprivation—such as the inside of your infant’s mouth being blue, or they appear to be trying to use their stomach, rib or neck muscles to breathe—they’re not getting enough oxygen. Go to the nearest hospital ER or urgent care clinic.
The best time to think about how to access and provide care for others who become sick is when you’re healthy. Check with your insurance plan to make sure telehealth is covered before you schedule an appointment. Regence members can sign in to their account on regence.com
or call the customer service number on the back of their member ID card to learn about all of their care options.