Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Not Just For Babies Anymore!

Most of us have heard of RSV, but it is usually associated with babies and infants. Now, RSV is not only affecting our infants, but our elderly population as well. 

There is nothing worse than the helpless feeling of wanting to help your child feel better and not knowing what you can do to help. RSV has symptoms eerily similar to COVID-19, in both infants and elderly adults.

RSV is more prevalent in the fall, and generally subsides by summer. This year, there is a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations. For most people RSV seems like a common cold, with a cough and runny nose. In babies, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in babies younger than 1 (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In these cases, the small airways of the lungs become inflamed, causing our babies to have trouble breathing. Many of these babies have to be hospitalized to receive oxygen and fluids.  I have several friends that have called to let me know their loved ones have been hospitalized. 3 young babies that are still having breathing treatments after release, and two elderly adults. Sadly, my husband’s cousin did not survive. While in the hospital, they continually tested her for COVID-19, as well as 22 other tests to determine her swift decline. RSV was the culprit.

Our hospitals are overwhelmed right now. There are dual surges of both COVID-19 and RSV, with many children hospitalized across the country. This is another reason for unvaccinated adults to get vaccinated to protect their children. Most of whom are not eligible for the vaccine.

Another big concern right now for our health care professionals aside from COVID-19 and RSV, is the fact that flu season is upon us. We were fortunate last year to have a minimal flu season due to the fact that everyone was wearing masks. Experts do not believe that will hold true for the 2021-2022 flu season. Experts are urging anyone 6 months or older to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves this year.

It should be noted that RSV is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS. RSV can spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or touches a contaminated surface. RSV can live for hours on counters or doorknobs.

With the easing of restrictions in certain areas, our elderly and babies are being exposed in larger gatherings. By limiting exposure to large gathering or people exhibiting cold symptoms, we can help protect our loved ones.

Early symptoms of RSV are fever, cough, congestion, fatigue and headaches. Testing is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of RSV.

A person contagious with RSV is generally contagious for 3 to 8 days. It should be noted that infants and people with weakened immune systems can spread this virus for as long as 4 weeks. This can occur even after they have stopped having symptoms.

Our elderly are at the most risk due to weakened immune systems. Anyone over 65 or, anyone with heart or lung disease and those with weakened immune systems. Adults with asthma, COPD, and those that are having difficulty breathing, running fever or, not responding to over the counter medications need to contact their physician immediately.

If you have been exposed to someone with RSV, you will generally start showing symptoms within 4 to 6 days. 

With babies, all symptoms do not onset immediately. You may only notice irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties (CDC). It is important that besides managing fever and pain, that you prevent dehydration with fluids. You may also notice a loss of appetite with the onset of symptoms.

Reba McEntire was convinced she had COVID and had numerous tests to see if she was positive. All were negative. She felt terrible and had numerous symptoms of COVID. Testing showed that she had another viral infection: RSV. Luckily, she has since recovered.

She is a lucky lady. Today, (September 15, 2021), she was rescued from a historical building she was scouting for a project. She was climbing the stairs from the second to third story, when the second story staircase collapsed. Luckily, she was unhurt.

To learn more about RSV in babies, you can watch the video below:


To learn more about RSV in adults, you can watch the video below:


According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), following are some things you can do to protect your loved one from RSV:

  • wash your hands often
  • keep your hands off of your face
  • avoid close contact with sick people
  • cover your coughs and sneezes
  • clean and disinfect surfaces
  • stay home when you are sick

There is no vaccine for RSV. And, as you see above, the symptoms and precautionary measures mimic those for the COVID-19 virus. 

It is important to remember that if your physician recommends the flu vaccine for your elderly loved one and/or your infant, that you do so as soon as possible. Being proactive is your best protection.

It broke my heart to see my friend’s beautiful baby laying in that hospital bed on oxygen. She stayed there 3 days, but is still wheezing and taking breathing treatments. She was transported by ambulance because she was turning blue and simply could not breathe.

Following is another video entitled “The Real Impact of RSV: Sarah’s Story”. You can watch it here:

There are more and more children filling up our hospitals right now. We have to do everything we can to help protect our children. While most kids will recover from RSV relatively quickly, many will not and have to be hospitalized.

Be Proactive. Mask up. Get Vaccinated.

I have personally lost entirely too many friends that believed that this virus was not going to impact them. The numbers are growing, and the average age is dropping. Protect the people you love! All of these people that underestimated this virus were sorry they did not get vaccinated. Now, their families are suffering needlessly. Be safe.