HOUSTON (December 20, 2017)

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is making the rounds, according to physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann.

This common and highly contagious virus infects the respiratory tract of most children before their second birthday. Cases have been reported at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital.

“We start to see an uptick in RSV cases in the fall and winter,” said Dr. Michael Chang, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “While it presents as a common cold in the majority of children, it can lead to serious complications in children younger than 6 months old and those with underlying medical conditions.”

Symptoms of RSV include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. As a virus, RSV cannot be treated with antibiotics, but symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers. The virus usually runs its course in one to two weeks.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 57,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized each year due to RSV infection. Signs that your child should seek immediate care include labored breathing, blueish tint around lips or fingertips, signs of dehydration (no tears, fewer wet diapers, sunken eyes) and increased lethargy.

“There is not currently a vaccine to protect against RSV, but good hygiene practices can go a long way to stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Chang, who offers these tips:

  1. Wash your hands – Everyone should wash their hands while singing the “alphabet song,” especially after using the bathroom or blowing your nose. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work too, but you have to let your hands air dry after use.
  2. Cough or sneeze into your elbow – This keeps the germs off your hands.
  3. Clean commonly touched surfaces – Regularly disinfect surfaces that people touch often, such as door knobs, light switches, the handle of the refrigerator, etc.
  4. Avoid close contact – If you have cold symptoms, avoid close contact – no kissing or shaking hands. Also, don’t share utensils or cups with others.
  5. Get enough sleep – Being sleep deprived can suppress your immune system. Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep.
  6. Stay at home when you are sick – No matter how good you think you are at proper hygiene, you still run the risk of infecting others when you go out in public while sick. Stay at home.

Families with children who are experiencing mild symptoms of RSV are urged to consult their pediatrician. For after-hours or weekend care, families can make an appointment at one of Memorial Hermann’s Convenient Care Centers or Urgent Care Centers.