With the arrival of cold and flu season in Nova Scotia, many children are coming to the IWK Health Emergency Department with cold symptoms, commonly resulting from RSV virus.
“The most common virus we are currently seeing in very large numbers in young infants and toddlers is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which can cause laboured breathing, fever, cough and runny nose,” says Dr. Andrew Lynk, chief, Pediatrics at IWK Health. “Our wards and intensive care unit have a lot of RSV patients right now”.
RSV is the most common cause of airway and lung infection in young infants and toddlers. In younger children it can present as respiratory distress. Infants with RSV may also feed poorly. Most children will feel better in 10-14 days and some will need care at a hospital for monitoring, fluids and oxygen as needed.
“Most children will have an RSV infection by the age of two and many will only experience a mild infection and don’t require medical attention,” says Dr. Emma Burns, Interim Chief, Emergency Department at IWK Health. "However, in some cases, children should be assessed by a health care provider and potentially admitted to hospital for care because of trouble breathing or poor feeding.”
There is no specific treatment for RSV and health care providers are not able to “catch it early” so-to-speak. Therefore, treatment given to children with RSV is supportive, rather than preventative.
Dr. Jeannette Comeau, Pediatric Infectious Diseases specialist, notes there are many ways to prevent young infants from getting a cold or the flu. These include:
Unlike COVID-19, RSV is not routinely tested for so patients should not expect to receive testing or swabs for RSV in the Emergency Department.
For more information about RSV and how to protect infants, please refer to the following resources.
About IWK Health: IWK Health is the Maritime region's leading health care and research centre dedicated to the well-being of women, children, youth and families. In addition to providing highly specialized and complex care, the IWK provides certain primary care services and is a strong advocate for the health of families. The IWK is a global leader in research and knowledge sharing, and a partner in educating the next generation of health professionals. Visit www.iwk.nshealth.ca for more information.