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RSV on the rise in our area, worrying parents


RSV on the rise in our area, worrying parents

A virus that can cause lung infections in young children and older adults is experiencing an off-season surge in our area.
Tidelands Health pediatrician Dr. Pia Shivdasani, who practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics on Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach, says respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is on the rise. RSV is typically most prevalent in the fall and winter and can cause an infection of the lungs and breathing passages.
Symptoms typically resemble the common cold, but the illness can become life-threatening, particularly among young children and adults 65 and older.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory warning of unseasonably high RSV activity in South Carolina and other southern states. The agency said RSV activity has remained relatively low since April 2020 likely due to public health measures implemented in response to COVID-19, but the agency said cases are now rising in many southern states.
“It’s normally a winter virus, but we are seeing it now,” says Dr. Shivdasani. “It’s not a reason for alarm, but it is something to be aware of if your child shows signs of a cold-like illness.”

Seniors, young children at risk

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 in the U.S. It is also a cause of respiratory illness in older adults.
Each year, RSV leads to an average of nearly 60,000 hospitalizations and 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 in the U.S., according to the CDC. An additional 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths occur among adults 65 and older.

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Dr. Shivdasani and her colleagues have each been seeing about 15 cases per week, she says, which is much higher than normal for this time of year. A. few children have required hospitalization, she says.
“We are very much seeing it with day care as a very common outbreak source in all age groups,” Dr. Shivdasani adds.
RSV can be problematic for young children and the elderly because of inadequate or compromised lung development, comorbidities and the inability to clear secretions from deep in the lungs. Those at greatest risk for developing serious RSV complications include:
• Individuals with asthma
• Babies born prematurely
• Immune-compromised individuals
• Cancer patients
• Transplant recipients
• Cardiac patients
• Sickle cell anemia patients


In infants younger than 1, RSV infection may result in symptoms of irritability, poor feeding, lethargy, and/or apnea with or without fever.
Older kids and adults with RSV might have symptoms of a common cold, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, mild headache, cough, fever and a general feeling of being ill.
The virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when someone sneezes or coughs, Dr. Shivdasani says. It also can live on surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, hands and clothing, so it can easily spread when people touch something contaminated then touch their face.

When to seek treatment

There is no cure for RSV, so treatment focuses on managing its symptoms. Individuals who are ill with the disease should get plenty of rest and fluids.
For children under 1, parents can use saline drops and a bulb suction to loosen and remove phlegm right before feedings, naptime and bedtime, Dr. Shivdasani says. Try smaller and more frequent feedings and consider offering the child small sips of fluid such as Pedialyte between feedings.

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For children older than 1, honey can be used to soothe and suppress coughs, Dr. Shivdasani advises.
Over-the-counter cough suppressants are not advised before children reach age 7.
To further relieve coughing and congestion, parents can try steam therapy. Use humidifiers or place a towel under the bathroom door, turn on the shower to create steam and sit with your child in the room for up to 20 minutes, Dr. Shivdasani suggests. Try reading or playing a game with your child in the bathroom to help calm the child and achieve maximum benefit.
If your child exhibits any of these signs, seek prompt medical care:
• Trouble breathing (symptoms can include breathing more than 60 times per minute for a child younger than 1, nasal flaring, belly breathing or ribs pulling in with each breath)
• High fever
• Pale or bluish skin
• Flaring nostrils
• Dehydration (Children should be evaluated for dehydration if urine output falls below four urinations in 24 hours or if a patient goes greater than 12 hours between urinations while awake.)
• A fever that breaks and returns two days later (could be indicative of pneumonia or a secondary ear infection)
To reduce the spread of RSV, older kids with cold-like symptoms should be kept away from younger siblings and other children, especially babies, until symptoms have passed. Disinfect surfaces in the home and wash hands often.
“Handwashing and wearing a mask around others can help to reduce the spread of RSV,” she adds. “It’s amazing how much benefit those measures can provide.”

Dr. Pia Shivdasani is a board-certified pediatrician who practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach.

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