CHICAGO, IL | August 31, 2022
Each year, around 58,000 children ages five and younger are hospitalized due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is a very common respiratory virus. About three-fourths of those hospitalizations occur in infants (under 12 months) and in fact, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalizations in infants. Through a new campaign, the American Lung Association is working to help educate expectant parents, and parents of infants and toddlers about the symptoms of RSV and the steps they can take to protect their children.
Through the RSV Educational Campaign, the American Lung Association, with support from Sanofi, is sharing stories of parents and their children who have been impacted by RSV to help raise awareness about the disease.
For Sarah Driscoll, RSV was one of her biggest fears when her daughter Charley was born. Following a holiday gathering, Charley started to show symptoms of a cold, which got worse quickly.
“She was placed in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to be cared for while her tiny body fought against RSV. We made sure she was never alone. Charley was put on forced oxygen. They had to put in a feeding tube. I have a lot of memories like that from her stay in the PICU, but mostly those days blend together in my mind. I did everything in my power to have this baby, and I wasn’t going to let RSV take her away from me. Thankfully, she got better. After five long days in the PICU we were able to bring her home,” she said. “Today, Charley is happy and healthy. When I think back, I don’t ever want a new parent to have to go through what we did when she got so sick.” Read Sarah’s full story here.
Tristan and Rocky Lopez have twins, Alexander and Diego. The first time they experienced RSV was when the boys were just over a year old.
“Alex was gasping for air like he was drowning in a pool. That’s when we realized this was something serious and we needed to rush him to the hospital,” said Rocky. “We both felt scared because we had never experienced anything like this.”
Today, Alexander and Diego are healthy and happy five-year-olds who love to play soccer and play with their toys.
“As a parent, I wish I would have known more about RSV. It is a serious illness, but it is something that if you work with your pediatrician, you can be an advocate, know what to look for and be able to help your children when they do get sick,” said Tristan.
RSV is so common that two out of three infants are infected before their first birthday. Severe RSV disease is unpredictable. Most people, including infants, develop only mild symptoms like a common cold but for some, it can quickly progress to severe complications.
RSV is spread from person to person through close contact with someone who is infected via coughing and sneezing or touching objects such as toys or doorknobs that have the virus on them. Symptoms of RSV include:
- Mild cold symptoms, including congestion, runny nose, fever, cough and sore throat.
- Very young infants may be irritable, fatigued and have feeding difficulties.
- A barking or wheezing cough can be one of the first signs of a more serious illness.
- Infants with severe RSV will have short, shallow and rapid breathing. This can be identified by "caving-in" of the chest in between the ribs and under the ribs (chest wall retractions), "spreading-out" of the nostrils with every breath (nasal flaring), and abnormally fast breathing. In addition, their mouth, lips and fingernails may turn a bluish color due to lack of oxygen. These are signs that it has spread to the lungs.
When to Call Your Doctor: You should call your pediatrician if your infant has poor appetite or decrease in activity level, cold symptoms that become severe or a shallow cough that continues throughout the day and night. Seek emergency care if your child is having trouble breathing.
For more information about the signs and symptoms of RSV, visit Lung.org/RSV
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.