By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Flu season seems to be winding down, but RSV (respiratory synctial virus) season is still here and actually arrived a bit later than usual this year. RSV is a common upper respiratory infection that causes cold symptoms with cough, runny nose, congestion and in some cases, wheezing.
Unfortunately, when new parents hear that there’s RSV in their day care or school, they often over-react. While RSV may cause cough, wheezing and respiratory distress in some young children (more commonly in those with underlying lung or cardiac disorders), thankfully for most, it’s just a really bad cold.
Statistically, 2 percent of infants less than 12 months old are hospitalized for RSV each year. Of course, that means that 98 percent of infants do NOT require hospitalization. Much better odds are that your child will be OK than if you play the lottery!
It really doesn’t make much difference as to which virus causes your child’s (or your) cold. What’s more important is how your child is breathing. Because a baby’s nostrils and airways are smaller, it’s not uncommon for parents to be concerned when an infant’s breathing sounds noisy.
To assess the situation, you need to look closely. This means taking off your child’s shirt or jammies to actually look at his/her chest. Make sure that you cannot see their ribs pulling in and out, or see their abdominal muscles doing the work of breathing.
You should also not see your baby’s nostrils flaring, or see any change in their skin color; it should always pink, never dusky or blue. The cough that accompanies RSV van be horrendous and noisy, but pay the most attention to how the child looks as they breathe and their color when coughing.
It’s also important that children with RSV stay hydrated, even though they may not take their bottle or fluids as well as usual. You should always see “spit” in their mouths, tears when they cry and wet diapers (maybe not be sopping, but wet). Remember, too, that you probably don’t want to eat as much when you’re sick yourself, and a child can feel the same way. Offer more frequent feedings when your child is sick, rather than trying to stick with a normal schedule.
Suck the mucus out of your baby’s nose and turn on a cool mist humidifier. Your sick child may also feel better when more upright, such as rocking on your shoulder.
If you have any concerns about how your child is breathing, you should always contact your doctor promptly.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
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This column was printed in the April 5, 2015 - April 18, 2015 edition.