What Are the Symptoms of RSV in Adults?

What Are the Symptoms of RSV in Adults-RTTC

While it’s more known to affect children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) affects everyone.

Here’s all you need to know about how its symptoms manifest in adults.

What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common pathogen that infects the lungs and respiratory tract. It’s known for causing mild symptoms in healthy adults and older children but can lead to severe infections in:

  • Infants
  • Older adults
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems

The virus is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets from the following:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Direct contact

Why has RSV been on the rise?

Several reasons may explain the uptick in RSV cases, including:

  • Changes in climate patterns, such as milder winters
  • Increased global travel
  • Urbanization

What are the symptoms of RSV infection in adults?

Symptoms of RSV infection in adults manifest as respiratory issues and flu-like symptoms. If you have RSV, you may experience the following:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

These symptoms can often be mistaken for a common cold or flu, making diagnosis challenging without proper medical evaluation.

Other symptoms include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches

Can RSV lead to complications in adults?

In adults, RSV can lead to conditions like:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, like
    • Asthma
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Diabetes

Severe cases may necessitate hospitalization for:

    • Supportive care
    • Oxygen therapy
    • Respiratory interventions

How is RSV diagnosed and treated in adults

How is RSV diagnosed and treated in adults?

To diagnose RSV in adults, your doctor may perform a nasopharyngeal swab or a lower respiratory sample for laboratory testing, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen tests. Chest X-rays can help evaluate the extent of lung involvement.

Treatment for RSV in adults focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting the body’s immune response. This includes rest, hydration and over-the-counter medications to manage fever, cough and pain.

In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary for oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids. Antiviral medications like ribavirin may be considered if you’re immunocompromised or if your infection is severe.

How long does RSV last in adults?

In general, the recovery period for RSV in healthy adults ranges from 1 to 2 weeks.

However, if you have a compromised immune system or underlying health conditions, the illness may persist for a longer duration. If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve after a week or two, seek medical attention to prevent potential complications and ensure proper management.

How is RSV different from other viruses?

RSV primarily affects the respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as cough, congestion and wheezing. Unlike some viruses that target specific age groups, RSV can infect individuals of all ages.

Compared to other respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV tends to have a slower onset and longer duration of symptoms.

One significant difference between RSV and other viruses is the increased risk of developing asthma following RSV infection, especially in young children.

RSV vs. COVID-19

While both RSV and COVID-19 share respiratory symptoms, there are notable differences in their transmission, risk factors and complications.

RSV primarily affects the lungs and respiratory tract, commonly impacting children under 2 but also capable of infecting adults. In contrast, COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has shown a more widespread global impact and a broader spectrum of severity, ranging from mild symptoms to severe respiratory distress and multi-organ failure.

RSV infection may increase susceptibility to contracting COVID-19, and co-infection can exacerbate the severity of the latter. If you’re experiencing respiratory illness symptoms, consider testing for COVID-19, especially if you’re at higher risk for complications.

RSV vs. influenza

Both RSV and influenza are respiratory viruses that can cause similar symptoms such as cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.

However, there are key differences between the two.

RSV tends to be more common in young children, especially those under the age of 2, while influenza can affect individuals of all ages.

In adults, RSV symptoms are typically milder compared to influenza, which can cause more severe illness and complications.

Additionally, while there are vaccines available to prevent certain strains of influenza, there is currently no widely available vaccine for RSV.

Frequently asked questions

Can RSV in adults increase the risk of developing other respiratory infections?

RSV in adults can increase susceptibility to developing other respiratory infections due to the impact on the respiratory system. Co-infections, particularly with viruses like COVID-19, can lead to worsened outcomes.

Are there any long-term effects of RSV infection in adults?

Long-term effects of RSV infection in adults may include increased susceptibility to respiratory complications, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Is there a specific age group of adults that is more susceptible to severe RSV infections?

While all adults can contract RSV, certain age groups, such as older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems, are at higher risk of severe infections. If you’re prone to severe infections, seek prompt medical attention.

Can adults with certain underlying health conditions be at higher risk for complications from RSV?

Adults with certain underlying health conditions, such as immunocompromised states, chronic lung diseases, heart conditions or weakened immune systems, may be at higher risk for complications from RSV infections.

Are there any specific lifestyle recommendations for adults to prevent RSV infection and spread?

To prevent RSV infection and spread in adults, adhere to preventive measures, like regular handwashing, covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and maintaining cleanliness of surfaces. These habits help reduce transmission risks.

Key takeaway

The symptoms of RSV in adults can vary and may present differently than in children.

While RSV infections in adults preset with mild symptoms, severe infections can occur in older adults and immunocompromised individuals.

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