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How to Stay Safe from RSV

Deborah Howell: Welcome. I'm Deborah Howell. And it's all over the news, RSV. We're starting to learn more about this respiratory ailment. And today, we'll help you find out how to stay safe from RSV. Our guest is Dr. Marnie Baker, a pediatrician with Memorial Care Medical Group in Irvine. Welcome, Dr. Baker.

Dr. Marnie Baker: Thank you for having me, Deborah.

Deborah Howell: Our pleasure indeed. Well, I guess I have to start at the top. What is RSV?

Dr. Marnie Baker: RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, a common respiratory virus that we get exposed to seasonally usually during the wintertime.

Deborah Howell: Fair enough. And who is most at risk for contracting RSV?

Dr. Marnie Baker: Well, Deborah, all of us contract RSV. In fact, I think about 100% of children contract the virus before the age of three, but we don't maintain long-term immunity to the virus. So actually, even older children, adults and the elderly can also get RSV.

Deborah Howell: Amazing. Because I don't think I've ever heard about RSV until this very year.

Dr. Marnie Baker: Yes, it has made the news and created a lot of attention. However, this virus has been around a very long time. In fact, I remember my own children getting it when they were little and they're teenagers now. And I think because it's been so severe this year and because we really haven't been very sick for the last couple years due to the pandemic precautions, it really is creating a lot of concern and attention.

Deborah Howell: Okay. And what are some of the symptoms associated with RSV?

Dr. Marnie Baker: So, the main symptoms with RSV is like a common cold, so it tends to be a little bit more severe than just your regular cold. And it can give you a fever for a few days and significant nasal congestion, cough and runny nose and just make you overall not feel very good.

Deborah Howell: What's not to love, right? So, what can a parent do at home to manage their child's RSV?

Dr. Marnie Baker: So, a parent at home can treat RSV just like any other common cold virus. They can make their child feel better by using acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever or discomfort. They can use saline and some kind of suction for their nose to help keep their nose clear. And for older children, they can take over-the-counter cough and cold medicine.

Deborah Howell: Let's talk about the saline solution. Can you describe that a little bit?

Dr. Marnie Baker: Sure. So especially in babies, I think the most important thing that we can do to help our kids feel better when they have RSV, is to keep their noses clear. Because babies especially are what we call obligate nose breathers. They really only breathe through their noses. So, using a salt water solution that you can either make at home or easily buy over-the-counter and putting drops in the baby's nose and then, you know, you can use something as simple as what's called the bulb suction that you may have gotten for your child when you left the hospital when they were born. But there's also a number of devices available that help kind of bring that mucus out of the nose to keep their noses clear and it really does make them feel a lot.

Deborah Howell: Great. Good to know. And what are the signs that child should be taken to their pediatrician or urgent care?

Dr. Marnie Baker: So, one thing about RSV that I want parents to know is that it really in general is a common cold virus that can be managed at home. There really isn't a need to get a specific diagnosis of RSV because, again, it circulates around with other common respiratory viruses in the winter. However, there are some symptoms that would indicate the need to go to your doctor, and that would be if it sort of falls out of the normal range of the illness. And as I mentioned, you can have fever for three to four days. But if your child is going on day five or beyond a fever, then that would definitely deserve a visit to your pediatrician. The other thing about RSV is, again, it causes, you know, nasal congestion, cough, and runny nose that can last seven to ten days, and it's usually the worst on day four and then starts to improve. But if you've waited out a week of the illness and your child seems to be worse instead of better, again that would be an indication to go see your pediatrician. Another reason would be if they seem super uncomfortable, super fussy, not sleeping, as if maybe they could have an ear infection, because we do sometimes see ear infections as a secondary complication of RSV and that could indicate the need for antibiotics. And then of course, if you see any labored breathing in your child or hear any wheezing.

Deborah Howell: So those are all signs for the doctor. When should we be taking our kids to the emergency room?

Dr. Marnie Baker: So in general, of course, again, most of the time the illness can be managed at home. Sometimes you need to go see your pediatrician, but there are a few cases where calling 911 or going to the emergency room becomes necessary. And I know, again, this has been in the media also, this respiratory distress, if your child is in respiratory distress and a lot of parents are thinking to themselves, "How am I supposed to know if my child's in respiratory distress?" So, what I can tell you as a parent, you know when your child is in respiratory distress. It is not something that is subtle. Babies that are in respiratory distress, they're working to breathe. And so, you can visibly see them labored. Their chests are moving heavily up and down. Their ribs are sucking in. Their abdomens or tummies are kind of moving in and out. Sometimes you can actually see baby's nostrils flaring out. So, babies that are in respiratory distress are working so hard to breathe. They can't sleep, they're not comfortable, they can't eat. So, these are really, really fussy kids and babies that are showing significant signs of distress, and that would indicate the need to go to the emergency room.

Deborah Howell: Thanks for that. During this cold and flu season, what are some safety precautions parents can do to help prevent their children from getting RSV in the first place?

Dr. Marnie Baker: So, I mentioned before that a hundred percent of children get this virus before the age of three. It is very difficult to avoid. If you have, you know, your child in childcare or school, this is something that they are likely going to be exposed to. However, we can try to minimize the risk by, you know, washing our hands, keeping your own children home when sick, so that they're not spreading the virus to other people. And then of course, avoiding really crowded places, especially during the winter months,

Deborah Howell: Okay. And where can people go to learn more about RSV?

Dr. Marnie Baker: Parents can go to to learn more about the virus. And we have a lot of great information on our website.

Deborah Howell: And I would also add, we can go to for more information there. Thank you so much, Dr. Baker, for your time and expertise today. I learned a lot.

Dr. Marnie Baker: Thank you, Deborah. I really appreciate you having me.

Deborah Howell: Well, we enjoyed having you on the show. And for more info or to listen to a podcast of this show, please visit That's That's all for this time. I'm Deborah Howell. Have yourself a terrific day and stay well.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season started earlier this year, most likely due to isolation experienced during the pandemic. Learn tips on how to identify if your child has RSV, how to manage it at home, and when to know if you should go to the hospital.