Winter months are approaching— and so are common viral illnesses such as RSV. Each year, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes around one million visits to healthcare providers among children younger than 5, and thousands more among older adults. Learn how to spot the signs and symptoms of RSV and what you can do to protect your family.
What is RSV?
RSV is a respiratory virus that typically causes mild illness in healthy adults. While most people can expect cold-like symptoms from RSV, it can be dangerous and even deadline for infants and older adults. Those most at risk for severe RSV symptoms include:
- Adults over 60
- Those with underlying, chronic health conditions
RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections and is responsible for more than 60,000 hospitalizations in older adults and more than 58,000 in children under 5 years of age. Infants and adults above age 65 are both at high-risk for severe RSV due to underdeveloped or weakened immune systems.
Additionally, adults with pre-existing conditions are high-risk for severe RSV. Examples include:
- Adults with lung disease
- Adults with heart disease
- Adults with a weakened immune system (those taking immunosuppressants or undergoing chemotherapy, for example)
Common RSV Symptoms for Mild Illness
For those with mild illness, common RSV symptoms include:
- Sore Throat
- Runny Nose
RSV symptoms in adults include typical cold-like symptoms such as sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, and fatigue. As symptoms progress and become more severe, older adults may experience fever, trouble breathing, and symptoms that worsen instead of improving.
Infants or children who have severe RSV symptoms may also experience a decrease in appetite, wheezing, irritability, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. Any infant with a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit needs immediate medical care. Some infants, especially with the first infection, develop lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis. These are conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Preventing and Treating RSV Symptoms
There’s no specific treatment for RSV. For healthy adults, treatment includes resting, staying hydrated, and managing symptoms. To prevent serious outcomes of RSV, antibodies and/or vaccines are now available for high-risk groups. Treatment options available are:
- RSV vaccine for adults over age 60
- RSV vaccine for women who are 32-36 weeks pregnant during September through January
- RSV antibody (Beyfortus— also known as “nirsevimab-alip) for infants born during RSV season
Other preventative measures include:
- Frequent hand washing
- Staying away from sick people
- Avoiding crowded indoor gatherings or public spaces
When To See a Doctor for RSV
If you have an infant with RSV symptoms, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to get a prompt diagnosis and medical advice.
For those with severe symptoms, treating RSV may require hospitalization. Hospital treatments may include IV fluids, supplemental oxygen, intubation, and antibiotics if you’ve developed an infection. If you or a loved one experiences the following symptoms, seek prompt medical attention:
- Fever above 4 degrees(in infants less than 3 months of age)
- Shortness of breath
- Blue-tinted skin
- A cough that worsens instead of improves
Connecticut RSV 2023 Season Outlook
After the hospitalization rate for seniors with RSV climbed 10 times higher than average in 2022, health leaders are on high alert monitoring for activity as the 2023 season begins.
In September 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement warning healthcare providers that RSV cases were climbing in the southeastern United States— the typical starting point for annual RSV activity. Experts believe cases will begin to spread north and west over the next few weeks, peaking in winter months.
In 2022, Connecticut hospitals saw a major surge in RSV hospitalizations among young children. Cases remained high for older adults as well.
Looking For a Primary Care Doctor in Connecticut? PACT Primary Care is Accepting New Patients
At PACT Primary Care, our providers are here to help you navigate cold, flu, and RSV season— and all other areas of health. PACT Primary Care offers locations throughout Connecticut in Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, New Haven, Orange, West Haven and Wallingford.
Learn More About PACT
Physicians Alliance of Connecticut (PACT) is a multi-specialty medical group led and operated by over 30 physician partners and more than 100 healthcare providers. We are committed to healthcare excellence, innovation, safety, and quality in private-practice patient care in the New Haven area of Connecticut.