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What to know about RSV and RSV Vaccination

What is RSV?

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a virus that is more common in the fall and winter. It causes an infection of the lungs and breathing tubes (respiratory tracts). It’s common in babies, young children and older adults, but anyone can get RSV. Fortunately, RSV is usually mild, causing symptoms like a cold: congestion or runny nose, dry cough, slight fever, sore throat, sneezing and headache. Almost all babies have had RSV by the time they are two years old.

How to treat mild RSV

People with mild RSV can take over-the-counter fever reducers, pain relievers and decongestant to relieve symptoms. Check with your baby’s doctor if you are unsure a medication is safe to give to your child or if you have other questions about your baby’s symptoms. Most people feel better within a week or two.

Severe RSV

RSV can cause severe symptoms for some people. People at risk for severe RSV include:

  • Babies under one year old – RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants in the United States
  • Premature babies
  • Children at high risk for severe RSV (children with asthma or other chronic lung disease, congenital (from birth) heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neuromuscular disorders are high risk.)
  • Older adults
  • People with heart and lung disease, kidney and liver disorders, or diabetes
  • People who are immunocompromised (have a weak immune system)
  • People with neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus

Severe Symptoms of RSV

RSV can spread to the lower respiratory tract and cause severe symptoms, even leading to pneumonia or bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airway passages going into the lungs). People with severe symptoms may need to be hospitalized.

Severe symptoms include: Fever, severe cough, wheezing, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, bluish color of the skin and nail beds due to lack of oxygen. Babies with severe RSV may struggle to breathe, take short, shallow breaths, cough, not eat well, and act unusually tired and irritable. Contact your doctor if you or your baby has severe RSV symptoms.

If you or your child has difficulty breathing, a high fever, or bluish color of the skin, lips and nail beds, head to the Emergency Department.

Preventing RSV with Vaccination

Replace sentence with this revised one: RSV vaccination is a single dose shot that provides protection for up to two years. It is available for pregnant people, older adults and infants.

RSV Vaccination for Pregnant People

The best way to protect infants from RSV is for the mother to receive an RSV vaccine while pregnant. Her antibodies will then be passed on to her baby. An RSV vaccine is recommended for those who are 32 to 36 weeks pregnant during the fall and winter.

Older Adults

RSV vaccination is available for adults aged 60 and older. One shot will provide RSV protection for at least two years. If you are 60 years of age or older, and especially if you also have underlying health conditions, talk to your primary care provider about getting the RSV vaccine. People living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities should also talk to their doctor about getting the RSV vaccine. The best time to get the vaccine is in the early fall, but it can be given year-round.

Get the RSV Vaccine at Henry Ford Health

Henry Ford Health is offering the Abrysvo RSV vaccine during the 2023-2024 fall and winter for eligible patients. Abrysvo is available for adults ages 60+ and pregnant women. Contact your primary care or OB provider via Mychart to make an appointment or ask at an already scheduled appointment. To receive an RSV vaccine at Henry Ford Health, you must be a Henry Ford Health patient.

RSV Immunization for Babies

RSV antibody immunization is available for babies. Antibodies are different than a vaccine. They help the immune system fight off the virus before it develops into a serious illness. One shot offers protection for the entire RSV season. Antibodies are not a treatment for babies who already have RSV.

RSV antibody immunization is recommended for infants younger than eight months who were born during or entering their first RSV season (fall and winter). Most infants whose mothers received an RSV vaccine do not need to get RSV antibodies. Babies up to 19 months old who are at risk for severe disease can also receive RSV antibodies.

Babies who are at risk for severe RSV include those with chronic lung disease from premature birth, children who are immunocompromised, have cystic fibrosis, and American Indian and Alaska Native children. If you not sure if your baby is at risk for severe RSV, talk to your baby’s health provider.

To learn more, contact your child's pediatrician or family practice provider, or ask about RSV antibody immunization at your child’s next well visit. Use MyChart to contact your child’s doctor or schedule an appointment.

Other Ways to Prevent RSV

RSV season usually starts in the fall and peaks in winter. You can prevent RSV and other viruses like the flu and COVID by:

  • Cleaning your hands often - Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people - Avoid close contact, such as kissing, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces - Clean surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices.
  • Staying home when you are sick - If possible, stay home from work, school, and public areas when you are sick to protect others.

Learn more about RSV

Expert care for your everyday needs
Our Primary Care team offers many convenient options when you need to be seen.

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