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COVID-19, a respiratory disease, has been a particularly stressful time for parents of young children…

This is because the symptoms of the virus, which includes a tight chest, coughing and shortness of breath, can easily be confused with other respiratory viruses.

One such virus, and one that parents need to know about but often don’t, is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), also known as “the 100-day cough”.

Recent reports indicate that the RSV, an illness affecting the respiratory tract and oftentimes more severe for children than adults, is on the rise across the globe.  As more children return to the classroom following the opening of schools and playschools in South Africa, there is an increased risk that children may be exposed to the virus.

“Unfortunately, most viral respiratory illnesses develop and look very similar,” says Dr Iqbal Karbanee, CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine.

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“There is no easy way to tell them apart. Which is why oftentimes parents confuse the symptoms of RSV for other respiratory illnesses, like a common cold, and think that it will go away, not realising that this is dangerous as it could develop into bronchitis or even pneumonia in younger children.”

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Copyright : Parinya Agsararattananont (123rf.com)

Raising awareness is important

Karbanee says that it is important to raise awareness of respiratory illnesses and how differently they affect adults and children, which is why countries like Canada and the United States recently observed Respiratory Care Week in October. Although the week is not widely observed in South Africa, it is important for parents to understand what impact respiratory illnesses like RSV have on children.

“Younger children, toddlers and babies are particularly vulnerable to RSV. The highest risk group in children for the complications of RSV are premature babies.”

Symptoms of RSV include secretions from the nose, cough and fever

A child’s chest may also be affected.

“It can cause secretions that last for weeks. Think of that cold that you cannot shake off; the one that improves but weeks later, you still have a post-nasal drip. A case like this would most likely be RSV.”

RSV is typically spread by droplets from hand to hand contact and through contaminated surfaces. Karbanee says the virus spreads quickly through environments such as preschools and creches.

“The single best measure to prevent the virus from spreading is handwashing.”

“The single best measure to prevent the virus from spreading is handwashing.”

He adds that although COVID-19 has made us more aware of how to keep healthy, it has also made it difficult to know whether to go to the doctor, or to stay at home, with the onset of illnesses.

“Now it is more likely that if a child is coughing, experiences shortness of breath, or any other symptom, parents are more likely to act on it. But they often aren’t sure whether they should treat their children at home, or go to the doctor. COVID-19 has also impacted people’s pockets, so parents may not have the financial means to see a medical professional if their child is experiencing any of these symptoms,” says Karbanee.

What’s the best course of action?

He adds that in cases of mild symptoms where secretions are not causing breathing issues, parents can manage the child at home. Good temperature control is important as is making sure the child is well hydrated. A child with breathing difficulty must be seen by a doctor. Even though RSV cannot be treated with antibiotics, Karbanee says there are good management options available.

“The main area of concern for parents is when the virus causes chest complications. Any change in the child’s condition that indicates this is happening should alert the parent to see a doctor. This is not always an easy decision, which is why parents can make use of telephonic-based advised services to quickly get an answer on the correct course of action from a medical professional, without needing to spend time queuing in clinics or paying for single consultations.”

Paed-IQ BabyLine

Paed-IQ BabyLine is a 24/7 telephonic-based helpline for medical advice, given by paediatric-trained nurses. Telephonic-based advised services have proven to be a winner during COVID-19 for those who have lost income, only have a hospital plan, or don’t have any medical aid cover at all.

“Telephonic-based advices services do not replace the services of a doctor or the taking of medicine, but rather offer appropriate and early medical intervention through advice, so that parents are more empowered to make better decisions to look after their children,” concludes Karbanee.

 

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.