Doctor's Notes on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause different illnesses, the most common of which is a common cold. In babies and toddlers, it can cause more severe illnesses including pneumonia and bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways). RSV is a highly contagious infection that most often occurs in the winter months.
In most people, RSV leads to the typical signs and symptoms of a cold or upper respiratory infection, including:
Swelling around the vocal cords can cause a bark-like cough. Symptoms associated with more severe infection may include:
- significant fever,
- wheezing, and
- bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis) around the mouth and fingernails.
Young infants may experience difficulty feeding and episodes of apnea (stopped breathing).
What Is the Treatment for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection?
There is no specific treatment for RSV infection, and most infections go away on their own. Treatment can be used to manage symptoms, such as medications to control fever and pain (ibuprofen or acetaminophen). It is also important for the affected person to consume enough fluids.
Aspirin should never be given to children, and over-the-counter cold medications should also not be used without the advice of a doctor.
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PneumoniaPneumonia is inflammation of one or both lungs with consolidation. Pneumonia is frequently but not always caused by infection. The infection may be bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic. Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough with sputum production, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The pandemic COVID-19 coronavirus causes viral pneumonia in a percentage of people who contract the virus.
Sore ThroatSore throats are generally named for the anatomical site affected, such as: the pharynx, tonsils, adenoids, larynx, and epiglottis. Sore throat treatment depends on the cause, infection, viral, or fungal.
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)An upper respiratory tract infection is generally caused by a virus and treatment is directed at managing the symptoms of the infection. Viral infections are not responsive to antibiotics. The most common upper respiratory tract infection is the common cold. Upper respiratory infections are contagious thus prevention measures such as frequent hand washing and avoiding other that are ill are the most effective.
Viral PneumoniaPneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs. It can be in just one part of the lungs, or it can involve many parts. Symptoms of viral pneumonia include low-grade fever, coughing up mucus, tiredness, and muscle aches. A percentage of people who contract the deadly COVID-19 develop severe lung symptoms that may include viral pneumonia. The best treatment for viral pneumonia of any cause is to rest and keep the patient hydrated.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.