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Updated Nov. 2, 2022

You’ve probably heard cases of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are rapidly increasing in Pennsylvania and nationwide. In fact, levels of RSV are higher than usual for this time of year so parents need to know about RSV because some children can get very sick and need hospitalization. 

RSV is a virus which usually causes common cold symptoms in most children and adults.  Both children and adults can get it and there’s no vaccination available for RSV.  While it usually causes mild illness, it is important to know that younger children are at much higher risk for serious complications requiring urgent treatment and in some cases hospitalization. 

Factors increasing children’s risk for severe RSV infections include:

  • 3 months of age or younger (due to difficulty clearing mucus from smaller airways)
  • Being around other children in a school, child care setting, or at home
  • Living in crowded housing situations
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Children with a history of weakened immune systems, preterm birth, or heart or lung problems

It is particularly concerning right now because the spread of RSV and other seasonal respiratory illnesses like influenza (flu) has started earlier than usual this year.  We know that COVID-19 is still circulating, too.  Strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like strict hand washing and sanitation practices, along with masking, can limit the spread of all respiratory and viral illnesses, such as RSV and the flu.

The PA Department of Health strongly recommends flu vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination to help protect persons 6 months and older, especially individuals with high risk for complications of respiratory infections.

Look for these Signs and Symptoms of RSV

Contact your child’s medical provider today if you see any of these:  

  • Runny nose
  • Poor feeding
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Cough (dry or wet sounding)
  • Fussiness, irritability
  • Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher)

Your child must be seen immediately by a medical provider if you see any of these:

  • Fast breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Head bobbing with breathing
  • Rhythmic grunting during breathing
  • Belly breathing, tugging between the ribs, and/or the lower neck
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy
  • Skin/lips turning blue (cyanosis)

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