RSV or Croup

RSV vs. Croup—the Complex Relationship Between Two Respiratory Illnesses

March 21, 2023

Respiratory viruses run rampant in the fall and winter—especially among young children who aren’t as vigilant about handwashing and covering their mouths when they cough and sneeze. Adults often end up with these nasty bugs as well, catching them from their own children, coworkers, or patients if they work in healthcare settings.  

There’s been a lot of talk about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) because of an uptick in cases this winter. While RSV has always been a concern for infants and toddlers, older children also became especially ill this fall and winter season. This is due to the severity of COVID, flu, and RSV outbreaks that hit all at once in what’s been dubbed a tripledemic.  

A related infection called croup is frequently linked to RSV, but they aren’t the same thing. The biggest difference between RSV vs. Croup is that RSV is a virus, while croup is a type of infection. Here’s what you need to know!

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a virus that affects the respiratory tract and airways. Most adults and older children have mild cases that mirror a cold, while infants, toddlers, and elderly people have a higher risk of serious illness. As a result, it’s really important for people who have symptoms of RSV or any other respiratory illness to stay away from infants and other medically vulnerable people.  

The only way to confirm an RSV diagnosis is with a test since symptoms are so similar to the common cold, flu, and other viruses. Common symptoms include runny nose, fever, coughing, and sneezing. People who have RSV might also experience decreased appetite or wheezing.  

Parents should closely monitor children who have RSV because their illness may escalate to include difficulty breathing, high fever, and other serious complications. They should seek medical intervention should their child develop any of these worrisome symptoms.  

Even though RSV is responsible for many pediatric hospitalizations each year, most children get it by the time they’re two years old without developing serious complications.  

What is croup?

Croup is also common among young children. But croup itself isn’t a virus—other viruses cause croup, which is an isolated infection in the upper part of the airway. And RSV is one of the viruses that frequently cause croup. Other viruses like the flu, adeno-, and enteroviruses are also common culprits.  

Getting croup usually sounds a lot scarier than it is. In addition to all of the usual cold symptoms like runny nose, congestion, and fever, there are audible symptoms that may cause parents and children worry. Most notably, kids and adults who have croup may develop a cough that sounds like a seal’s bark. People who get croup may also have stridor, which is a high-pitched whistle that you can hear as you breathe.  

Stridor and difficulty breathing are always signs that someone needs medical attention. If you or a loved one experience either of these symptoms, you need to seek medical attention promptly.  

RSV vs croup risk factors

Some people are more likely to get seriously ill from RSV and croup because they have certain risk factors. One of the most common risk factors is age because it makes you medically vulnerable. Infants and toddlers are still developing their immune system, while elderly people often have compromised immune systems. In both cases, it makes it harder for their bodies to fight off infections.  

Other risk factors for serious complications from RSV and croup are exposure to secondhand smoke, premature birth, heart and lung conditions, and any disease or treatment that compromises the immune system. Secondhand smoke is responsible for a whole host of health issues among children. It can worsen a child’s cough if they have croup or another respiratory illness.  

Treating croup and RSV

Mild cases of RSV and croup are pretty easy to manage at home, but getting guidance from urgent care or a primary care provider is always a good idea. In most cases, the healthcare provider will recommend:

  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Managing fever with an over-the-counter medication
  • Getting plenty of rest

You can soothe symptoms of croup by inhaling steam in a hot shower and using a humidifier. Your doctor may prescribe steroids, nebulization treatments, or other medications that address the root cause of croup.  

More serious symptoms of RSV require closer management by a healthcare provider.  In the most severe cases, children and elderly people may need hospitalization so they can get assistance for difficulty breathing and fluids for dehydration. Some cases even require intubation.  

Preventing respiratory viruses and infections

Preventing croup and RSV is difficult among little ones, especially since they aren’t as mindful of hand hygiene and keeping germs to themselves. However, transmission can be reduced with proper hygiene and etiquette:

Frequent hand washing.  

Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds kills many viruses and other germs. Teaching kids how to wash their hands correctly can help them avoid illness and keep them from transmitting their illness to others.  

Keep your germs to yourself.  

Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze greatly reduces the likelihood that you’ll make someone else sick. Use the bend in your elbow instead of your hand, that way you don’t spread germs from coughing and sneezing to doorknobs and other high touch areas.  

Stay home if you don’t feel well.  

There’s pressure to keep working or going to school even when you’re feeling sick. Refusing to rest not only prolongs your illness, but it also exposes others to viruses and other germs unnecessarily.  

Travel nurses make a difference

When healthcare facilities struggle with an influx of patients from RSV and other infectious disease outbreaks, staffing challenges are more disruptive. These facilities rely on travel nurses to fill in the gaps and reduce disruptions in patient care, and Advantis Medical helps them do it.  Specializations like Stepdown and Med/Surg are particularly in demand during these times.

When you join Advantis Medical as a travel nurse, you get access to some of the most sought after travel nurse opportunities available. And our team helps you all along the way, whether you’re assigned to the east coast, west coast, or Midwest.  

Browse travel job openings from the #1 rated travel nurse agency.  You can choose to work with one of our dedicated Pro Recruiters and receive top-notch, white-glove service, taking care of all the legwork for, or express your interest in specific jobs directly on our individual job pages.  Start your next adventure today by clicking here to start searching for travel nurse jobs.

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