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Ask the Expert - What is RSV?

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

by Dayna Thergesen, CPNP, MSN

RSV has been branded the new "Viral Villain" by national news outlets. We asked our resident pediatric practitioner, Dayna Thergesen, CPNP, MSN to explain the details of this villainous virus.

RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, affects the bronchioles of the lungs. Imagine your lungs are like upside-down broccoli in your chest. The bronchioles are the tiny balls at the end of the broccoli which manage oxygen exchange. RSV inflames the bronchioles, causing mucus production and reducing elasticity which creates symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. This is worse in the lungs of infants and they can have trouble breathing.

For most adults and healthy children, RSV feels like a bad cold with nasal congestion, cough without fever and respiratory complications. These symptoms are often resolved with about a week of rest and hydration. However, for some infants, elderly patients, and persons with lung or heart conditions, RSV increases the risk of developing secondary complications such as viral and bacterial pneumonia, ear infections and dehydration. Since it is a virus, RSV does not respond to antibiotics.

RSV typically hits Montana from late December through June. However, over the last two years we have lost the predictable seasonality for RSV and it can happen earlier and later. It can be detected by your healthcare provider with a nose swab test for RSV.

For more information about RSV, click here or on the graphic above.

Dayna Thergesen, CPNP, MSN is a Pediatric Primary Care Provider at The Ruby Valley Rural Medical Clinic and SWMTCHC Pediatrics.


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