Guest Post: What is RSV?

As promised, my friend Jordyn Redwood, ER nurse and writer extraordinaire is going to be posting common medical Q & A’s on my blog twice every month. I’m superexcited about this and think it will not only be a ton of fun but it will also be really informative. So, a huge thank you to Jordyn! And, if you want to know more about her, Jordyn is not only a novelist with a book coming out from Kregel in a few months, but she’s also a blogger who writes a superfun blog called “Redwood’s Medical Edge” where she discusses now novelists approach medical issues in their books. Check it out here.

What is RSV?

It’s soon to be that time of year when we’ll be in “respiratory season”. The time of year many pediatric medical professionals dread because it is when all the respiratory viruses come out to play and our patient volumes increase. And you thought just the kindergarten playground could be hectic.

RSV is a virus that causes bronchiolitis. It is most often the causative agent but not the only virus that causes bronchiolits. 

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It has a confined season that lasts approximately 20 weeks and starts in late fall/early winter and lasts until spring.

The concern with RSV is that it is easily transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing and through touch. Someone coughs into their hands and then touches another on the face would be an example of its transmission. Unfortunately, the RSV virus can live on surfaces and clothing for several hours. The best way to prevent its transmission is with good hand washing.

RSV typically starts with a low grade fever of 101-102 and typical upper respiratory cold-like symptoms of runny nose and cough. The big downside is that it causes inflammation and increased mucous production in the smaller airways. The effects of the virus on the smaller airways can lead to lower oxygen levels and respiratory distress in a child. Young infants are more apt to develop respiratory distress.

But how can you tell if your child is having difficulty breathing and needs medical attention?

1. They are breathing fast. Count their breathing over a period of one minute. One breath is in and out. Infants should be breathing less than 60 times per minutes. Older children should be less than 40.

2. You see retractions. Retractions are when skin is sucked in during breathing. It may be pulled in between the ribs, above the sternum, above the collar bones, and below the rib cage. The more evident the skin tugging is, the more difficulty they are having. Retractions are a sign the child is using additional muscles to help them breathe. Their belly may bob up and down as well.

3. You hear extra noises when they are breathing. They might be musical, barky like a seal, or high pitched like when the top of a balloon is squeezed and the air escapes through a smaller passage.

4. They have color changes. Their skin is pale or blue.

5. They are not interested in eating or drinking or are having difficulty eating and drinking. Children, particularly babies, that are having trouble will begin to pull of the breast/bottle to take breaths. Young baby’s breathe just through their nose, so if it’s clogged with secretions, they can’t breathe and nurse at the same time.

The more symptoms the baby has, the more significant their difficulty breathing. If you see signs such as these, you should have your child checked by their pediatrician or local emergency department.

To read more about RSV, check out these resources:


What questions do you have about RSV?


Jordyn Redwood has served the pediatric population and their families for many years. She has five years of experience in the pediatric ICU and ten years of pediatric ER nursing which is the area she currently works. Jordyn also teaches CPR and advanced resuscitation courses.

Jordyn is also a suspense author. Her novel, Lilly’s Ashes, will be published by Kregel in the Spring of 2012. She also hosts a medical blog for authors which you can find at

Disclaimer: Remember, these posts are for education and discussion. If your child is sick and you think they require medical attention, take them to their pediatrician or local emergency department.


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