Management of respiratory syncytial virus with lower respiratory tract infection in infants and children

Laurel S Garzon, Lynn Wiles
AACN Clinical Issues 2002, 13 (3): 421-30
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infection in infants and children requiring pediatric hospitalizations. Infants with chronic lung, cardiac, or neuromuscular conditions are at increased risk for RSV infection. Early RSV is associated with subsequent diagnosis of reactive airway disease. The management of RSV with lower respiratory track infection in infants and children remains controversial. Bronchodilators may have some short-term benefit, but are not recommended as standard practice for infants and children. Antiviral therapy may be used for high-risk and severely ill patients. Corticosteroids may be effective in cases of moderate to severe RSV with lower respiratory track infection. Monoclonal antibodies have shown some promise in achieving passive immunity for those at greatest risk, including preterm infants younger than 1 year or infants younger than 2 years with chronic lung disease. Emergency management remains primarily supportive, with vigilant monitoring of oxygenation and hydration status. Interventions include supplemental oxygen therapy, ventilation, and fluid and nutrition therapy. Respiratory syncytial virus prophylaxis for high-risk patients includes intramuscular injections of palivizumab (Synagis) each month during RSV season, from November through April. Prevention strategies include washing hands, cleaning environment surfaces, and isolating infants and children with RSV in the emergency care area.

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