Until just recently, I'd never even heard of RSV, but since there seems to be a lot of it around this year, I thought I'd do some research.

What is RSV?

I've seen health warnings that it could be a big year for flu and RSV, but hadn't paid much attention to them until an adult friend was diagnosed with the three-letter illness. So I went to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website to learn more about it. What the heck is RSV and is it dangerous?

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RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which sounds awful. But, for most people, it's just another cold-type illness that they should get over quickly. In children, it's usually not a big deal, unless they have other underlying issues that could cause complications. But, like with so many childhood illnesses, it can be more serious in adults, especially those who are immunocompromised or already have breathing challenges. For these folks, RSV can cause upper and lower lung infections, pneumonia, and difficulty breathing which could require a hospital stay.

Are There Symptoms I Should Watch For?

It generally takes four to six days, from the time of infection until a person develops symptoms and they will be contagious for six to eight days after showing signs of illness. Symptoms of RSV include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Wheezing

Because the symptoms are so similar to other respiratory conditions, it can be challenging to diagnose, especially in infants who may only show signs of fussiness and low activity. However, it can be done with a simple lab test, so if you think what you have may be more than a cold, talk to your doctor. Most people who don't suffer complications will get over RSV in a week or two.

How Can I Protect Myself from Getting Sick?

RSV is spread like other respiratory illnesses, through droplets. So wash your hands often and well, especially after touching common surfaces or visiting public places. Don't share eating utensils and avoid kissing, if one of you is feeling ill. And, as with the flu, cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent possibly spreading it to others.

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