Here are tips for easing symptoms during flu and RSV season
By Rebecca Jones
Are sniffles, coughs and body aches making the rounds in your house? It could be that a case of the flu or RSV is paying an unwelcome visit.
It’s that time of year, and so far, according to TriCore Reference Laboratories weekly Infectious Disease Report, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu cases are starting to pick up. It’s a late start compared to previous years, but health care experts expect numbers to increase in February and March.
Meghan Brett, epidemiologist for University of New Mexico Hospital, says that though flu season is officially under way, what’s notable is the number of RSV cases. UNMH doctors haven’t seen as many flu cases this season, which began just before Christmas, she says.
“(RSV) commonly affects younger children because of their smaller airways,” Brett says. “They can temporarily become quite sick and need oxygen for a short period of time.”
Don’t forget to wash your hands
UNM pediatrician Janet Ventura, MD, who sees patients at the Southwest Mesa Center for Family and Community Health, says she expects numbers to kick up a few notches. The cold weather is keeping everyone inside and that leads to sharing – sharing germs, that is.
“We’re going to see an increase in the number of RSV cases in the months to come,” Ventura says.
If you’ve managed to avoid the upset of RSV and flu in your home so far, remember to cover those coughs and sneezes in the crook of your arm. And, forget about using antibacterial soaps. “It’s best to do good handwashing,” Ventura says.
Symptoms for RSV and flu viruses are quite similar, and young children two years and under are most susceptible to RSV, Ventura says. However, older children can contract it, too.
RSV is one of the most common viruses affecting the lower airway - specifically the bronchiolar epithelium - in children less than one year old. The virus affects the lungs, which can become inflamed, making breathing difficult. Children two and younger haven’t yet built up the immunity to fight it off.
Symptoms for both RSV and flu viruses include:
- Runny nose
- Body aches
Tips for feeling better
Home remedies can make a difference. Try these for kids under six years old:
- Use nasal saline spray or drops four to five times a day, and don’t use the suction bulb more than that, as it can cause irritation in your child’s nose and become counterproductive.
- Place a humidifier in your child’s room.
- Offer plenty of fluids.
To ease symptoms for kids two years and older:
- Make a honey and lemon cough syrup by mixing a teaspoon of each, and warming it. This concoction can soothe a sore throat.
- Offer plenty of fluids, such as Pedialyte for younger kids. Try diluted Gatorade for kids 10 and older.
- Encourage rest.
- Keep your child home from school.
- Give Children’s Tylenol or ibuprofen, as needed.
It’s time to call the doctor when…
In general, it’s time for you to call your doctor when your loved one:
- Has difficulty breathing.
- Is running a fever of 100.4 degrees or above that lasts about two days.
- Isn’t drinking enough fluids. A slight loss of appetite is normal but not peeing isn’t.
- Isn’t acting like himself or herself.
If you’re unable to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, check with UNM Health System’s Adult Urgent Care or Pediatric Urgent Care.