CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – If you’re a mom or have mom friends, a recent scroll on your social feeds may have made one thing clear: babies in the area are coming down with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
“RSV is a common respiratory illness that presents with symptoms similar to those of cold or flu,” explained Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Jan Hershberger of WellSpan Family Medicine in Waynesboro. “Most people who get it will feel better within a week or so, but for some groups of people such as babies, it can be particularly dangerous.”
That’s because, nationwide, RSV is the most common cause of bronchitis and pneumonia in children younger than one year of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus typically peaks between the end of December and middle of February. It also can be problematic for the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems or who have chronic heart or lung disease.
Hershberger said while her son was born toward the end of peak RSV season, the virus was always in the back of her mind.
“Things that helped decrease my concerns and protect him from contracting RSV included frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizers; removing shoes worn outside the home prior to walking through the house; keeping him out of crowded and public places as much as possible; not allowing random strangers and passers-by to touch him; sterilizing his bottles and pacifiers; and frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces with (disinfectant) wipes.”
Hershberger noted she habitually used the wipes on things like light switches, door handles, her steering wheel, shopping cart handles and her cell phone.
“The good news is, there are a number of steps like those that people can take to protect themselves and their babies from RSV,” said Hershberger. “If you do get sick, cover your coughs and sneezes and make sure to stay home to avoid infecting others.”
Quick tips to stay well
As with cold or flu, parents can help protect their children from RSV in several ways:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Wash hands often
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect surfaces
- Stay home when you’re sick