The news has been flooded this season with the devastating effects of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, on babies and toddlers. Hospitals have been stretched beyond capacity and scrambling to find the resources to care for these young patients, who typically recover quickly from this common virus. And though it’s not as widely discussed, the risk of severe illness from RSV is quite high in older adults as well. In fact, the CDC estimates that RSV in older adults leads to as many as 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths.
As a result, the experts at American, Advocate and Whitsyms In-Home Care know it’s important for all of us to be vigilant in protecting each other – from the youngest to the oldest – from RSV. It begins with understanding more about the virus and how it differs from other illnesses that are rampant this time of year.
What Are the Symptoms of RSV?
RSV in older adults can manifest with symptoms similar to those of the common cold, the flu, or even COVID-19. RSV often begins with symptoms such as:
- Reduced appetite
- Runny nose
- Low-grade fever
If the virus worsens, however, it can display through:
- Rapid breathing
- Wheezing when breathing
- Increased coughing
- A higher fever
- Blue-tinted skin from lack of oxygen
- Call 911 immediately if the skin looks blue or if the person struggles to breathe.
What Do I Do if I Suspect RSV in an Older Adult?
Contact the older adult’s primary care physician for direction. There are two types of tests available that they may want to order to confirm an RSV diagnosis: a rapid antigen test, which produces results within about an hour, or a molecular test, which can detect smaller levels of the virus and other infections as well.
RSV may present with mild cold-like symptoms, but some older adults may develop a lung infection or pneumonia. Additionally, RSV can lead to a worsening of chronic health conditions such as asthma, COPD, or congestive heart failure. Because of this, if an older loved one displays any RSV-like symptoms, it’s important to seek the prompt advice of a physician.
How is RSV Treated in Older Adults?
Currently, there is no vaccine for RSV, but researchers are working to develop one. If an older loved one is diagnosed with RSV and is not seriously ill, the virus can be treated at home with these steps:
- Drink plenty of clear liquids
- Use saline nose drops to combat congestion
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers
- Get adequate rest
- Avoid cigarette smoke
If symptoms worsen, it’s important to contact the older loved one’s physician for advice and further assessment.
How Can I Protect My Loved Ones From RSV?
RSV is both highly contagious and long-lasting. Someone carrying the virus can transmit it to others for anywhere from three days to four weeks, even when no longer symptomatic. It can spread through:
- Airborne droplets from sneezes or coughs
- Surface contact (the virus can live on hard surfaces for several hours)
- Close personal contact
- Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoiding touching the nose, eyes, or mouth.
- Staying away from those who are displaying cold-like symptoms.
- Wearing a face covering and gloves while in close contact with others.
- Disinfecting surfaces in the home such as doorknobs, countertops, phones, the TV remote, etc.
- Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Preventative measures include:
A referred care provider from American, Advocate, or Whitsyms In-Home Care can also help in a number of ways: light housekeeping to ensure a clean and sanitary home environment, running errands to reduce an older adult’s exposure to crowded stores, providing medication reminders, and much more.
American, Advocate and Whitsyms In-Home Care have been referring home care providers in Florida for over 30 years, and we’re always here to help your family with trusted in-home care services. To find out more about how an experienced and compassionate referred care provider can improve safety and comfort for the older adults you love, contact the office nearest you:
- American In-Home Care – Serving North, Central, and West Coast of Florida
- Advocate In-Home Care – Serving Southeast and Southwest Florida
- Whitsyms In-Home Care – Serving Southeast and Southwest Florida
State of Florida License and Registration Numbers: 30211518, 30211651, 30211295, 30211390, 30210978, 30211293, 30211382, 30211504, 30211733, 30211535, 30211531, 30211710, 30211709, 30211045, 5661