Doctor outlines key differences among RSV and other respiratory conditions  

KENILWORTH, N.J., March 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- This winter, cases of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) struck households across America. News coverage of the potential for a so-called "tripledemic" dominated many headlines and left patients and parents with questions about RSV. In a new editorial on, Brenda L. Tesini, MD, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, breaks down what people should know in particular about RSV, especially given all the attention it's received this winter. (PRNewsfoto/ (PRNewsfoto/

RSV Concerns for Young – and Older Patients

Parents of young children, along with older individuals and their caregivers, should be most concerned about RSV, says Tesini. In babies and young children, parents and caregivers should keep a close eye out for fast breathing or babies "working hard" to breathe, she says, including muscles pulling between the ribs or use of more of the body to take breaths. If children are having difficulty breathing, they should be taken to the hospital right away.

RSV and COVID-19 have Similar Symptoms but how they Spread is Different

There can be overlap in the symptoms of RSV, COVID-19, and the flu, says Tesini. One key difference between COVID-19 and RSV, however, is in how the viruses are commonly spread. RSV spreads most commonly through contact with sick kids and the virus they may leave on surfaces. Kids and others touch their faces where the virus is present and then touch other things, which someone else then touches. Parents and caregivers should take steps to prevent the spread of RSV in childcare settings and at home, says Tesini. That means regularly wiping down surfaces, avoiding sharing utensils, and staying home if you're sick.

Testing for RSV

Most respiratory illnesses have similar treatments primarily focused on managing symptoms, says Tesini. That means testing to determine which specific virus is causing those symptoms is not always necessary.

Additionally, some patients and parents assume they need to see a medical professional for treatment, says Tesini. Antibiotics aren't commonly used to treat viruses like RSV, and other medicines and treatment options continue to be studied. In fact, staying away from healthcare settings has a few distinct advantages, says Tesini. You're not exposing others to the virus and you're avoiding exposure to other potentially contagious conditions.

Still, Dr. Tesini says if you do notice your young child is having difficulty breathing, you should head to the emergency room immediately. Otherwise, a call to your family doctor or pediatrician is a good first step to determine if a visit is necessary.

You can read more about RSV in Dr. Tesini's editorial on

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