9 Telling Signs of RSV in Adults

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RSV in adults

RSV in adults

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a virus that causes severe respiratory illness in infants, children, and adults. It is the leading cause of hospitalization for infants in the United States. RSV is highly contagious and can be spread through coughing and sneezing. It is most commonly spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as doorknobs, toys, or countertops. RSV can also be spread through contact with infected people, such as shaking hands or hugging. RSV is most commonly spread during the winter months when respiratory illness is more common. It is important to take steps to prevent the spread of RSV, such as washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated. RSV can be a serious virus, but a person can take steps to protect themselves and their family.

RSV Symptoms and Complications

RSV symptoms range from mild to severe. Symptoms also vary depending on whether an adult or a child has contracted the sickness.

The most common one is a cold, with signs of RSV usually being a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. Other common signs of RSV include:

RSV in adults
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest congestion
  • Difficulty drinking or eating
  • Rash

In infants and young children, RSV can also cause:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Upset stomach
  • Dehydration
  • Apnea (temporary cessation of breathing)

RSV in adults and in children can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and even death in some cases.

Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs that can occur in people with RSV. Pneumonia can be deadly, particularly in young children and older adults. Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, cough, chest congestion, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. Bronchiolitis is a serious RSV complication that occurs when the virus infects the small airways in the lungs. This can cause difficulty breathing and may require hospitalization. Bronchiolitis is most common in infants and young children. Symptoms of bronchiolitis include fever, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. RSV can also cause apnea, which is a temporary cessation of breathing. This can be especially dangerous for infants and young children and may cause death.

Causes of RSV 

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of getting RSV, including:

  • Age: RSV in adults is most common, as well as in young children and infants
  • Location: RSV is more common in colder climates
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of getting RSV
  • Exposure to sick people: Being around people who are sick increases the risk of getting RSV
RSV in adults

Diagnosis and RSV Treatment

If a person thinks they or their child may have RSV, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. There is no specific RSV test, but the doctor will likely order a chest x-ray and/or a nasopharyngeal swab to rule out other respiratory viruses.

RSV treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. There is no specific RSV treatment, but the following can help ease RSV symptoms:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Using a humidifier to loosen chest congestion
  • Taking over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to relieve fever and pain
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • If the person has difficulty breathing, they may need to be hospitalized for treatment.

Preventing RSV

There are a number of things a person can do to help prevent RSV, including:

  • Washing hands often, especially before eating
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated
  • Getting vaccinated against RSV

The RSV vaccine is available for people who are at high risk of getting RSV, such as pregnant women, people with chronic heart or lung conditions, and young children. The vaccine is not recommended for everyone, so a person should speak to their doctor if they are interested in getting vaccinated against RSV.

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