It’s called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
RSV is quite common, with almost all babies contracting it at least once before their second birthday. It produces mild, cold-like symptoms, including coughing, sneezing and a low-grade fever.
While RSV typically clears up on its own within a week or so, the virus can be more dangerous, even life-threatening, for others, particularly premature infants, a child born with a congenital heart defect or babies under six months old.
“The virus causes inflammation, which can block a baby’s small airway and makes it difficult for them to breathe,” explains Dr. Gabriel Aljadeff, a pediatric pulmonologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge. “These higher-risk babies are very prone to RSV, becoming severe and progressing into their lower airways, leading to pneumonia and bronchiolitis.”
Every year, more than 57,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.