RSV: What Gulf Coast Parents Should Know


RSV is scary and has been rampant this season. If you are the unfortunate mama of a child who contracts RSV, hopefully this information will be helpful to you.

About RSV

RSV or Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus (RSV), which causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages, is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. These three letters could make any mom a little tense, especially if your little one is under two. 

Adults with RSV might have the symptoms of a common cold, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, mild headache, cough, fever, and a general feeling of being sick. But in premature babies and kids with diseases that affect the lungs, heart, or immune system, RSV infections can lead to more serious illnesses.

RSV is highly contagious and spreads through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. It also can live on surfaces (such as countertops or doorknobs) and on hands and clothing, so it can easily spread when a person touches something contaminated.

According to, the virus causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages, and is a major cause of respiratory illness.

Ask the Expert

Many children along the Gulf Coast have been impacted by RSV. My child was not spared from the coughing, wheezing or snot (thanks Nose Frida). Luckily, our bout with RSV did not include a hospital stay. 

We partnered with local pediatrician, Dr. Erica Frank from Garden Park Physician Group – The Pediatric Center. She answered several of our questions regarding RSV in hopes to help educate moms along the Gulf Coast.

When are children more likely to get RSV, i.e. what months is it more common?

RSV season varies by geographic area. In the southeastern United States, we have one of the longest RSV seasons from October through April. We often see sporadic cases in the off-season, too. 

Are certain age groups more susceptible to getting RSV?

All age groups (from newborns to seniors) are affected by RSV, but the illness is much more common in infants and toddlers. Most children under the age of two years will get RSV at least once. 

Is RSV more dangerous in certain ages?

Babies born prematurely, babies with underlying health concerns (heart defects, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, immune deficiencies, etc) as well as infants younger than 3 months are at risk for more severe RSV infection. 

How do you know when to take your child to the doctor?

If your child is older than 3 months of age and s/he has symptoms such as nasal congestion, cough, slight decrease in appetite, and intermittent fatigue, is ok to try symptomatic treatment at home. 

Symptomatic treatment includes:

  • Saline nose drops and nasal suction (many parents prefer Nose Frida to the blue bulb) before feedings and bedtime
  • Cool mist humidifier
  • Baby chest rub (like baby Vick’s VapoRub or Maty’s Chest Rub) on feet
  • Push fluids (breast milk, formula, or Pedialyte in infants). Babies with RSV tend to eat smaller amounts more frequently so breastfed babies may want to do a lot of “snack nursing” while bottle fed babies may want to eat 1-2 ounces every hour
  • Acetaminophen (for babies 3 months and up) and ibuprofen (for babies 6 months and up) as needed for fever or discomfort

We recommend seeing the pediatrician if your baby is 3 months or younger, if s/he seems to have symptoms of bronchiolitis (RSV infection of the lungs) — fast or labored breathing and wheezing, if s/he is not eating well, or if you are just worried. 

If your baby has not had her first set of vaccines and has a fever of 100.4 or higher, it is important that you contact your pediatrician immediately. 

Are there ever cases in which you should take your child directly to the ER?

We recommend going directly to the ER if your child’s breathing is severely labored (greater than 60 times a minute or pulling of the neck and abdominal muscles while breathing), if the baby looks blue or gray, if she has a significant decrease in activity and alertness, or if he is dehydrated (including less than 4 wet diapers in a 24 hour period, sunken eyes, sunken soft spot, dry eyes and mouth).

How can you prevent your child from getting RSV?  

You can help reduce your child’s chances of getting RSV through the following measures:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Avoid crowds when your baby is young
  • Try to keep your baby away from children and adults with cold symptoms. If you have older children at home and they  have a cold, try to keep them from touching the baby until the cold symptoms are better (easier said than done, I know!), teach them to cover mouths with coughing and sneezing, and have them wash their hands frequently. If mom and dad have colds, wash hands frequently, do not touch your face, use cough hygiene, and try not to kiss baby in the face. Nursing mothers with cold symptoms should continue to breast feed as normal.
  • Regularly disinfect frequent contact surfaces at home as well as toys and baby equipment. 
  • Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke. 

Some babies are high risk for RSV and may need monthly injections of a medication called Synagis at their pediatricians’ offices. These babies include young infants that were born before 29 weeks of gestation, babies with certain heart defects, babies with chronic lung disease, and babies with certain neuromuscular diseases. 

Can you get RSV more than once?

Unfortunately, you can get RSV more than once in a season and multiple times in a lifetime. The good news is that subsequent infections are usually milder than the initial case. 

What do you want parents to know about RSV?

I think the important thing to remember is that the vast majority of cases are on the mild side, but it is important to know what to expect and what to look out for. 

Symptoms are usually the worst on the third to fifth days and get better after that. Symptoms usually last 10 days but the cough can linger intermittently over the next month to six weeks. Trust your instincts in taking care of your child — call your pediatrician if you have questions or if you are uncomfortable. We know it is hard having a sick child and understand your worries (when my children are sick, the pediatrician in me leaves and I worry just like you all!).

My biggest tip is to wash your hands all the time (invest in a good hand cream to combat dryness!) and take time to take care of yourself — having a sick baby is hard but being sick and taking care of a well baby is just as hard!

In adults RSV is nothing but a cold, but to infants, it is much more. So much more.

Call your child’s pediatrician if you see any of these symptoms. Doctors can diagnose RSV with a nasal swab.

Thank you to Garden Park Medical Center for partnering with Gulf Coast Moms Blog and serving the Gulf Coast community.
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Christy is Co-Founder and Owner of Gulf Coast Moms Blog. She was born in Costa Rica and moved to the United States when she was 6 years old. She vividly remembers flying into New Orleans and knew, in the moments to come, her life would change forever. She grew up in Moss Point and moved to Hattiesburg to attend college at Southern Miss, where she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She met her love, Matthew, and they have enjoyed married life for 13 years. They live in Long Beach with their precious children, John Salem and Ann-Michael. Prior to co-founding Gulf Coast Moms Blog, she had a successful 10+ year career in higher education administration, where she developed and spear-headed campus-wide student initiatives and events. Christy is now spending her days as a stay-at-home mom and serves her community through several non-profit organizations. She enjoys making Costa Rican tamales, a fresh margarita from El Aguila, annual sister spa day, collecting random owl things (Hootie Hoo to my Chi Omega sisters), words of wisdom from Irish priests and pool days. She is passionate about connecting women and creating a supportive, nurturing community to empower moms.