The common cold looks almost identical to a more serious condition called respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, for short.
RSV starts out with typical cold symptoms, especially runny nose, coughing, phlegm, and a low temperature. But, unlike the cold, RSV can progress to pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and even death. Some scientists are saying that RSV is just as dangerous to people over 65 as influenza is.
Yet seniors can be vaccinated against the flu. So far, there is no vaccine for RSV. And the Centers for Disease Control estimate that fourteen thousand people over 65 die because of RSV every year.
A Particular Risk For the Elderly
RSV has long been a health problem for the very young. Doctors test babies for RSV if the cold-like symptoms get worse or persist over many days. Of late, scientists and doctors have agreed that RSV represents a danger for people over 65 as well, especially those who have underlying health issues.
Seniors at high risk for RSV complications are those who have:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- A compromised immune system from an auto-immune disorder or use of immunosuppressants.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Protect Your Senior From Contagion
You can protect your senior from getting RSV through you, by washing your hands before having contact with your senior, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces in the senior’s home, staying away from sick people, and avoiding contact with your senior if you are sick. If you bring your children to see your parent, be sure that they are not sick, and it’s a good idea to clean and disinfect their toys if your parent is going to handle them while playing with his grandchildren.
Many people recover on their own from RSV. Over-the-counter medications, like decongestants, antihistamines, and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin and acetaminophen may alleviate pain and congestion.
If, however, a senior’s symptoms worsen and he struggles to breathe, he will need to go to the hospital. There, treatments include intravenous fluids to keep the patient hydrated, oxygen and other supportive interventions as needed. Because RSV is a virus, antibiotics are not used in treatment.
A hospital setting is the best way to ensure that RSV does not progress to pneumonia; the hospital is also the best place to treat pneumonia when RSV does progress.
Elder care aides can be very helpful in observing the symptoms of a cold. These elder care professionals will let you know if the symptoms worsen or if your parent’s cold now seems to make it difficult to breathe. If called upon to do so, elder care aides can get your parent to the emergency room for treatment.
In conclusion, RSV is a threat to many elderly people, especially those who already have breathing disorders. However, with early detection and hospitalization, it can be successfully treated. The patient has a good chance of making a full recovery. Make sure someone, like a home care provider, is checking on your parent if he or she is living alone, to make sure he or she is maintaining good health.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Home Care in Headland, AL, please contact the caring staff at Wiregrass HomeCare today. Call us at 334-539-5900.