Child care: Respiratory syncytial virus

The respiratory syncytial virus is a main cause of infections affecting the breathing passages and lungs among babies and young children. It is one of the various viruses that can trigger bronchiolitis.

This respiratory virus spreads from an infected child via secretions from the mouth or nose. The highly contagious period is in the initial days of the infection. The incubation period ranges from 2-8 days, usually in 4-6 days.

What are the indications?

Respiratory syncytial virus

This respiratory virus spreads from an infected child via secretions from the mouth or nose.

Many children with respiratory infections only have minor symptoms that are like common cold. Among children younger than 2 years old, the infection can progress to symptoms the same as bronchiolitis.

  • At first, the child has a runny nose, mild cough and even fever in some cases.
  • In 1-2 days, the cough worsens.
  • At the same time, the breathing becomes rapid and difficult. Wheezing can occur every time the child breathes out.
  • There is difficulty drinking since too much energy is used on breathing. Swallowing is also difficult among infants.
  • Area around the lips and fingertips turn bluish in color which indicates that there is not enough oxygen in the bloodstream.

What can I do?

During the initial phases of a respiratory infection, you can ease the cold-like symptoms. Gentle suctioning of the nose can be beneficial in clearing the nostrils. Avoid using any medications since they can trigger side effects and not effective for young children. Make sure that the child is given enough fluids to drink to prevent dehydration.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted right away if an infant or child has the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Child is younger than 2 or 3 months and has fever
  • There are indications of dehydration such as crying without tears, dry mouth and reduced urinary frequency

Dealing with the respiratory syncytial virus

Even today, there is no effective treatment for respiratory syncytial virus. The individual should be monitored if the condition is worsening. In case worsening occurs, a doctor should be consulted.

Some children with bronchiolitis should be admitted to a healthcare facility for treatment with oxygen. In case the child could not drink due to rapid breathing, intravenous fluids are required. In rare instances, infants are placed under a respirator to assist with breathing.


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