Doc Talk: Sometimes that cold is RSV, and that's a more serious virus for children

Doc Talk: Sometimes that cold is RSV, and that's a more serious virus for children.

It's a virus that resembles the common cold, but could be a lot more serious. Local doctors said almost every child will be infected with it before their second birthday.

It’s called respiratory syncytial virus, and more commonly known as RSV. It's a contagious viral infection, one that affects the most vulnerable members of the population.

“It is actually very common. It is very common in children less than 2 years of age,” said Dr, David Davenport, an infectious disease specialist with Ascension Borgess.

And thousands of those children will be hospitalized because of it.

“The other difficult thing is if you have a child that's premature or a child that has underlying heart disease or lung disease or some illness that suppresses his immunity, if he gets RSV, it could be life threatening,” Davenport said.

RSV also is dangerous for people over age 65. Davenport said in that age group, more than 14,000 deaths are attributed to RSV every year.

It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms, Davenport said. Those symptoms are similar to those experienced by patients with a cold or flu. It usually starts with a runny nose or cough that eventually goes down into the lungs, resulting in a deeper cough.

“Then some children will develop wheezing or asthma-like symptoms,” Davenport said.

While most healthy children and older adults will get over RSV on their own and won't need to be hospitalized, the CDC warns that wheezing might be reason enough to talk to your doctor.

“The problem with RSV is our bodies don’t develop permanent immunity,” Davenport said. “Most diseases when you get them once, you're immune. Not RSV. Your immunity wanes and you can get repeated episodes.”

To date, there's isn't an effective vaccine for RSV, but Davenport said there are ways to prevent it.

As with any contagious virus, he said, you have to remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands, clean highly touched surfaces and stay home when you're sick.

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