CareNow® - February 13, 2024

If you have young children, you've undoubtedly heard of the term Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. During the fall and winter months, RSV is commonly spread throughout schools and daycares. According to the Mayo Clinic, most children have been infected by the virus by age two. While the infection isn't typically dangerous for healthy adults, symptoms can be quite severe for infants, very young children, and older adults.

So, what should you do if your child ends up with RSV? And do you need to seek treatment if you end up with the virus yourself? We're breaking down what you need to know about RSV so you can take a proactive approach to getting treated before symptoms worsen.

What Is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that can affect people of all ages. In most cases, RSV leads to mild, cold-like symptoms, but it can be severe, especially for infants and older adults. It is crucial for individuals with RSV symptoms to seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially those at higher risk of complications.

What Are the Symptoms of RSV?

Recognizing the symptoms of RSV in adults is crucial for early intervention. It's common for symptoms to appear anywhere from four to six days after you've been exposed. For most adults and older children, symptoms mimic the common cold.

Symptoms of RSV include:

  • Runny or congested nose
  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever

In severe cases, RSV can turn into viral pneumonia, hypoxia, lethargy, apnea, and acute respiratory failure. That's why it's important to seek RSV treatment as soon as you notice symptoms, especially for infants and young children or older adults.

What Are the Differences Between RSV and the Common Cold?

RSV and the common cold share many similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate them. Both can cause a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, and decreased appetite.

However, RSV often presents with more severe respiratory symptoms, particularly in infants and young children. Wheezing and breathing difficulties are more common with RSV, and it can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

While the common cold typically manifests with milder symptoms, RSV can cause more pronounced respiratory distress, especially in vulnerable populations. It's crucial to seek medical attention if there are concerns about severe respiratory symptoms, especially in young children.

Does Urgent Care Test for RSV?

Yes, a rapid test is available for infants. When it comes to respiratory infections like RSV, getting a diagnosis quickly can be beneficial. If possible, getting tested within the first few days of symptoms arriving will yield the best results since this is when the viral load is highest.

Urgent care is a great solution if you need to get tested and treated for RSV. Open after hours and on the weekends, urgent care clinics are equipped to provide you with a full diagnosis.

CareNow® has more than 225 locations throughout the country that are open after hours and on the weekend, so you can get care that's convenient and high quality.

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Can Urgent Care Treat RSV?

Urgent care can provide treatments to help with the symptoms of RSV. In many cases, RSV goes away within a week or two without medical intervention. However, infants, young children, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system should see a medical provider before symptoms worsen.

In most cases, a medical provider will recommend fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen to keep your fever down. Saline drops and a nasal suction can also provide some symptom relief. It's important to note that you should never give aspirin to a child.

Should I Go to Urgent Care for RSV?

If you or your child are experiencing respiratory symptoms similar to those of RSV, you should consider visiting urgent care. Immediate medical attention is necessary, especially if there are signs of severe symptoms like breathing hard and fast, 15-20 second pauses in breathing, nasal flaring or grunting. People with mild or moderate symptoms can typically complete RSV recovery at home, but monitoring and care are essential until they feel better.

How Is RSV Spread?

RSV is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, either by direct contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces. The virus can be transmitted when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, releasing virus droplets that can enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of others. Additionally, RSV may spread through contact with contaminated hands, as the virus can be present in respiratory secretions on hands.

Can You Prevent RSV?

Keeping yourself and your family free from RSV is no different than trying to prevent the common cold. Common hygiene habits such as washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces and objects you frequently touch, and avoiding touching your face can prevent the spreading of germs throughout your house and in schools and daycares.

Why Is RSV So Dangerous for Newborns?

RSV poses a significant threat to young babies due to their underdeveloped immune systems and smaller airways. The virus can lead to severe respiratory illness, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous for infants with immature immune responses.

In high-risk babies, RSV may escalate to life-threatening conditions, such as respiratory failure. Additionally, RSV infections in infancy have been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma later in life. Infants are more susceptible to complications because their airways are narrower, making it easier for the virus to cause significant respiratory distress. Recognizing symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for managing RSV in babies.

If you believe you or a family member is suffering from RSV, it's a good idea to get tested so you can begin treating the virus as quickly as possible. CareNow® is a great option with hundreds of clinics around the country all open outside of a general physician's standard hours.

Before booking a visit at your local CareNow® location, be sure to utilize our Web Check-In® feature, which allows you to wait from anywhere. To find the CareNow® urgent care near you, visit our website.

We're proud to share that we've been designated as an Accredited Urgent Care Center recognized by the Urgent Care Association (UCA), which showcases our steadfast dedication to delivering outstanding patient care.

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