Back to school season is a hectic time with parents already having so much to worry about. While students are ready to be in class and around their peers, it seems COVID-19 still weighs heavily on everyone’s mind. Parents are familiar with the never-ending battle of protecting their little ones from the viruses that become more abundant during the school months, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it seems that people have overlooked another virus that is stirring up trouble.


What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV infection is an infection of the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic. This virus tends to be more abundant in the winter and spring. It is becoming more and more prevalent due to school being in session and people meeting in person again. The infection can affect children and adults. Symptoms of RSV are:

  • Runny nose and/or sneezing
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever

While RSV is not the cause of too much concern and symptoms often imitate that of the common cold, it is still important to take this illness seriously and to understand it. This article discusses what symptoms are associated with RSV, how its symptoms are similar and different from COVID-19, how it is spread, and how it is detected.

RSV vs. COVID: What is the Difference?

RSV and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses that share symptoms, and it is for this reason that people are becoming more on edge during these challenging times. According to the Mayo Clinic, similar RSV and COVID-19 symptoms are:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Lack of appetite

Also, like COVID, RSV “spreads easily through air on infected respiratory droplets.” In other words, if you are in close contact with someone who sneezes or coughs, you could contract the virus. RSV can live for hours on surfaces and items such as counters, toys, and other objects and can even be contracted through direct contact with another person by shaking hands or other physical contact.

RSV vs. COVID: How Children are Affected

RSV can affect any age although it primarily causes problems for children with preexisting health conditions and infants. Since this virus tends to be an upper respiratory infection, infants can have difficulty breathing, eating, and staying hydrated, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

RSV and COVID affect children differently. As the CDC explains, “children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID and can get sick with COVID [but] most children with COVID have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all (‘asymptomatic’). [It is also known that] fewer children have been sick with COVID compared to adults.”

No wonder cases of RSV occur at the same time kids get back to school. Just when parents had enough to worry about, now they have this virus wreaking havoc in their households. Not only that, but RSV increases the risk of contracting COVID-19 since it compromises the immune system. It is for this reason that clinics like Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine in Colorado offer RSV testing nasal swabs as well as COVID rapid testing to ease the minds of families and to catch serious symptoms early.

When to See a Provider

If symptoms do not dissipate after a week or two, it is recommended that you or your children see a healthcare provider to prevent other serious conditions such as pneumonia, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Treatment for RSV includes easing symptoms by:

  • Drinking more fluids
  • Taking bronchodilator medicines
  • Taking antiviral medicine

Depending on the severity of the illness, a feeding tube, mechanical ventilation, oxygen, or the suctioning of mucus may be necessary.

Knowing that there is another virus out there to worry about can be disheartening, but it is necessary so the appropriate steps can be made to prevent any serious outcomes.

The next time your child gets the sniffles, consider the possibility that RSV may be the culprit. Similar steps to avoid contracting this illness can be taken. To prevent RSV: wash your hands frequently, avoid known exposures, clean surfaces often, and avoid sharing foods/drinks. These steps can all prevent the spread of this virus and can help you and your family get through another school year.

See Us Today!

Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine in Colorado has clinics across the Denver metro area. Schedule an appointment online or walk-in today. Our clinics are open 7 days a week. View a list of our clinics and schedule your visit by clicking here.

Keep in mind that we also offer telehealth visits with curbside testing. Schedule your telehealth visit and learn more by clicking here.