By Jaleesa Robinson for BlackDoctor.org
The last four months of the year is always the most eventful time of the year with the drastic dip in the weather due to fall and winter, preparing for the holidays, all the good food you can eat and all the money to be spent. The last quarter of the year is always set to bring joy and laughter every year. Though joy and laughter aren’t the only things that the fall and winter bring. They also bring about health concerns. This time of year is when different illnesses are usually more prominent and easy to catch. You may know about the flu and a regular cold but do you know about RSV as well? Yes, that is an illness that could really affect you and your family, here’s how.
What Is RSV?
Otherwise known as respiratory syncytial virus, RSV is a virus that causes infections in the lungs and respiratory tract. With similar symptoms as a cold, if you are diagnosed with RSV you may experience symptoms such as sore throats, sneezing, low fever, dry cough and headaches.
In more severe cases the symptoms may look like severe cough difficulty or rapid breathing, wheezing, and a change of skin color (blush) due to lack of oxygen. An RSV infection can spread to your lower respiratory tract and can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia in severe cases because of the damage it does to your airway passages.
This virus can easily spread through the air by infected respiratory droplets. RSV can enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes so a simple cough or sneeze from someone standing next to you who has RSV can lead to you being infected.
Who Is Affected By It The Most?
Though both children and adults can be affected by RSV, infants are severely affected by it the most. In infants, you’ll notice babies struggling to breathe, short or shallow breathing, lack of appetite and extreme tiredness or fatigue if a baby has been infected with RSV.
Unfortunately, it has been proven that every two out of three babies will be infected by respiratory syncytial virus by age 1 due to how easily this virus can spread. If your child attends daycare or has siblings who attend school, then your small infant is at a higher risk of developing RSV.
Children or adults with weakened immune systems, children or adults with heart or chronic lung disease, premature infants and adults older than 65 are all people who are at a higher risk of developing severe or life-threatening RSV infections.
How To Protect Yourself And Your Family This Season
It’s extremely important to be mindful of this sickness when it comes around, especially if you are someone who is already living with respiratory issues such as asthma. This can cause extreme difficulty breathing and bring on severe cases of RSV due to the fact that you already suffer from easily inflamed airway passages, so protecting yourself is key. There’s no form of vaccine to prevent RSV, but there are ways you and your family can protect yourself from getting sick. When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth with your arm and not your hand. Wash your hands frequently and teach your children to do the same and why it’s important.
Try to keep your surfaces and areas clean as well as children’s toys. Keeping these clean will prevent bacteria and germs from spreading fast. Do not share cups with each other, drink from your own. Make sure no one kisses your baby on the lips or their face as that is an easy way to spread RSV to infants and children. Stay away from smoking if you can or do not expose your children to tobacco smoke because this puts them at a higher risk of developing RSV.
Not Sure If It’s RSV, COVID Or The Flu?
Since the symptoms are all so similar, it’s easy to not know if it’s COVID, RSV, the Flu or a common cold. The best way to distinguish which one you may have developed is by paying attention to who has what symptoms. In children, COVID symptoms are usually milder but adults usually experience more severe COVID symptoms. RSV is the opposite, where children experience severe symptoms and adults experience milder symptoms. The best way to determine which one your child has is to get tested and see a doctor once you notice the symptoms and their severity. Staying safe this winter is important so do your best to protect yourself and your family so you all can enjoy the season together.