Doctor cautions parents as RSV in children more prevalent during winter months

A photo of Dr. Matt Brooks and his family hangs in his office at Jefferson City Medical Group. (Megan Sanchez/KRCG 13)

Dr. Matt Brooks with Jefferson City Medical Group said Monday winter months are the most common time for young children to contract respiratory syncytial virus.

Known as RSV, the virus presents like a bad cold - lots of snot, cough and runny nose - but it can be very difficult for babies and toddlers to fight off.

"Since they have smaller airways, the mucus that's produced by the virus can sometimes plug up the airway and make it difficult for babies to exchange air," Dr. Brooks said.

When the mucus blocks the airway and causes issues with babies' breathing, the virus can lead to hospitalization. Dr. Brooks said his family experienced this when his second son got RSV.

"It's traumatic because you've got your small baby that you can't do anything for," he said. "You get to the hospital and realize they're not doing as much as you want them to do. You want them to cure it, and really what it takes is time."

Hospitalization allows for around-the-clock suction - the key to clearing the airways. Dr. Brooks said he and his wife spent nearly five days in the hospital with their son, who was born prematurely. Premature infants are more prone to contracting RSV.

"It's supportive care," he said. "Infant goes into the hospital, usually doesn't get any antibiotics, because antibiotics won't help the virus, but they'll get suction, frequently. From-the-wall suction to get all of the snot cleared out of the airway."

Dr. Brooks said his two youngest children contracted RSV, but they were able to avoid the hospital. He said medical manufacturers make heavy-duty suction devices that are more powerful than the small suction device parents get when they take home a newborn. He said by utilizing this kind of tool, they were able to treat the RSV at home and avoid airway blockages.

He said the most powerful tool parents have to prevent RSV is hand washing and he said parents can never be too careful.

"You don't want to socially isolate yourself or your children, but you want to protect yourself as much as possible, so frequent hand washing, hand-sanitizing, that's your first line of defense," he said.

Adults can contract RSV, but Dr. Brooks said they can usually fight it off like a regular cold.

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