GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Respiratory syncytial virus is a virus that most children will get before their second birthday. For adults RSV is a common cold but can be serious for infants.
As we get ready to go into fall and head into winter, local doctors are sending a warning on what to look out for in your baby and the number one way to protect them from contracting it.
“It actually causes infants to come to the emergency room and the hospital more than any other illness in the first year of life," said Dr. Rosemary Olivero , section chief of pediatrics infectious disease at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital . “RSV is a very common viral infection that can spread to anybody at any age, but it really severely affects young infants."
You may have seen parents sharing images on social media, asking that people to not kiss their baby, and health experts say there is a reason for that.
“The virus can cause inflammation in the airways, and younger children -- especially infants -- have very little airways." said Dr. Olivero. "So if those airways get inflamed, they can become sick, because it’s harder for them to breath."
“Children who get affected the worst by RSV are children less than one, although we can occasionally see a child up to age two have a more severe case of RSV".
Every year, Michigan sees an uptick in these cases between December and April. "It is a very contagious virus," added Olivero. "Not only can it be spread from person to person, but RSV can actually live for a short amount of time on the things that babies would touch or play with."
Parents should be on the lookout for nasal congestion in their children: stuffy nose or difficulty breathing through the nose.
As for ways to limit the virus from spreading, Olivero says to always wash your hands. "That goes for parents, grandparents, anyone helping to take care of the children -- siblings as well -- because we can spread RSV by touching each other," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two and can be managed with over the counter fever reducers and pain relievers.
There is also no specific treatment for the infection, but researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals.