The New RSV Vaccine for Seniors

The New RSV Vaccine for Seniors

 Have you ever heard of Respiratory Syncytial Virus? Usually known as RSV, you might have heard of this troubling condition as it relates to babies.

Many children are infected with RSV each year, and while most can fight it off over a matter of weeks, some suffer serious symptoms that can damage their lungs and put them into a pediatric intensive care unit.


But seniors can get RSV too, and if they do, it can be serious. That’s especially true if there are any underlying health conditions. In fact, RSV is even more dangerous for the elderly because so few people know about it, and so protecting yourself from it might not even cross your mind. Fortunately, there is a new vaccine that promises to offer great protection for seniors.


Why is RSV So Serious?


There are many reasons why RSV can be so severe in seniors over the age of 60.


RSV tends to creep up on you. It starts out very much like the common cold and the symptoms are typically very mild at first. But since the immune system tends to decline with age, the older you are, the more likely it is that RSV could overwhelm your system. What first appeared to be no worse than a typical cold could quickly escalate to pneumonia and other more serious problems.


And if you have an underlying condition, especially one that affects your lungs, RSV can go from mild to severe very quickly. If you are among the 85% of elderly Americans who have chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, coronary artery disease, or congestive heart failure, you are more likely to be hospitalized with severe complications.1


How much more likely? According to RSVandMe, those over the age of 65 with diabetes are up to 6.4 times more likely to be hospitalized if they contract RSV. Those with COPD are up to 13.4 times more likely to be hospitalized.2


And it might not be the RSV infection that sends you to a hospital bed. While RSV is a serious illness, as your immune system turns its attention to fighting it off, that means that other conditions can get worse. For those with diabetes, for instance, your blood sugar could go haywire. Those with congestive heart failure could experience more shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and other symptoms get worse.


So though RSV is serious enough in and of itself, when you have an underlying chronic condition, your body is attacked on more than one front and your immune system might not be able to keep up. 


And unfortunately, RSV could be hiding in plain sight.


As you already know, respiratory infections like the common cold or even COVID can spread easily through coughing or sneezing. But while most people who are infected with RSV will remain contagious for around a week, those who have a weakened immune system can harbor the virus for much longer. In fact, they could be contagious for as long as a month, well after their symptoms have disappeared and they believe they are fine.


That means that if someone at the local senior center had RSV a few weeks ago and now they seem to be in great health, they could still spread the virus to others.


RSV isn’t necessarily a seasonal virus. For most viruses, their impact hits in late fall and continues until early spring. That’s because so many people are in closer quarters as the weather turns cold and are driven inside for warmth during gatherings. And while RSV cases do tend to rise when the weather is colder, in 2021 the RSV cases in the southern United States started to rise in early spring and didn’t peak until summer! That is a reminder that RSV is around all the time, no matter the season.


The CDC reports that RSV is responsible for approximately 177,000 hospitalizations of adults and 14,000 deaths each year.3 However, that number is likely a significant underestimate, since many with RSV infections die of causes other than RSV, such as heart attacks for those who have congestive heart failure.


Don’t wait until you develop RSV to protect yourself from it and the associated symptoms. Now is a great time to add an alert system for elderly adults to your good health arsenal. By having a medical alarm at your fingertips that you can press at any moment, you are empowered to reach out for live help whenever you need it, 24/7.


How to Know if it’s RSV


RSV often begins like a common cold. You might know it’s more serious if you begin to run a fever, as the common cold typically doesn’t send your body temperature up that much.


The other symptoms are mild and can include cough, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, a headache, and feeling very tired. But if you have RSV, those symptoms can quickly become worse. Shortness of breath or trouble breathing tends to be a hallmark of the virus. If you begin to feel as though it is hard to breathe or the typical cold symptoms are on the severe side, it’s time to talk to your doctor.


Sometimes shortness of breath and other medical emergencies come on very suddenly. If you have an emergency button alarm right there at your fingertips, you won’t have to think about the worst case scenarios. You can press the button and talk to a trained professional who answers your call. They will assess the situation and send any help you may need right away.


The New Vaccine for RSV


The Food and Drug Administration has very recently approved a vaccine called Arexvy for the treatment of RSV in those over the age of 60. This is the first vaccine for RSV approved for seniors. It targets the lower respiratory system in the hopes of preventing severe symptoms from RSV, including pneumonia. The clinical trials of the drug found that it decreased the risk of developing lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD) as a result of RSV by over 82% and decreased the risk of severe disease by over 94%.4


There were few side effects to the vaccination. The most common side effects included pain at the site of the injection, pain or stiffness in the muscles and joints, fatigue, and headache – all of which are typical side effects for most vaccines these days and last for only a short period of time.


If you are over the age of 60, now is the time to contact your doctor and ask about getting the RSV vaccine. It is a single-dose shot that could literally save your life.


How to Protect Yourself From RSV


Of course, prevention is always better than cure. RSV tends to spread very easily, so protecting yourself as best you can is a vital part of staying healthy.


·        Get the vaccine. This helps ensure that even if you do contract RSV, the problem will be mild and you won’t wind up in the hospital.

·        Keep chronic conditions under control. If you do contract RSV, you want to be assured that your chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, are under firm control. That means you are less likely to suffer from severe complications.

·        Wash your hands. Use soap and water to wash your hands on a regular basis, but especially after you have touched a surface of some sort.

·        Keep your hands away from your face. Did you know that the average person touches their face every few minutes?5 Your hands are the first place to pick up germs, and touching your face is bringing those germs to your lips and nose, where viruses can easily take hold.

·        Avoid contact with those who are sick. Try not to share the same space with someone who is ill. If you must, wear a face mask and wash your hands even more frequently.

·        Clean and disinfect surfaces. Invest in a good disinfectant spray and use it regularly on the areas that are most commonly touched, such as doorknobs, tables, or countertops.

·        Consider wearing a mask. We all got used to wearing masks during COVID-19. It’s not a bad idea to wear a mask if you are going to be in a public area and you’re worried about RSV infection. If you are sick and must go out, protect others by wearing a mask for their safety.


As you are protecting yourself from RSV and the associated problems, why not make a point of protecting yourself from other issues, including falls? A medical alert pendant or necklace can be a helpful tool that keeps you safe in your home and on the go. If you experience an accident, suffer a fall, or even notice shortness of breath, you can press the panic button at your fingertips to get help right away. In a world that is constantly bombarding us with worries, Alert1 can help you breathe a little easier.