RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

What is RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, is the most common virus that can affect the lungs and airways.

The virus causes colds and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia in young infants and toddlers. RSV typically causes mild symptoms that only last a few days and do not require medical attention. However, some people with an RSV infection, especially infants younger than six months old and older adults, may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated.

Most children will have at least one RSV infection by the age of two. Children are more likely catch RSV between November and April when the virus is most active.


What are the symptoms of RSV?

Children with RSV may experience cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose, fever, wheezing, decrease in appetite and energy, and irritability.


How can I treat my child with RSV?

Because RSV is a virus, antibiotics will not help your child get better faster. In most cases, you can take care of your child at home as long as they are breathing comfortably, their skin does not look blue and they are drinking and urinating as usual.

Here are some ways to treat a child with RSV:

  • Use over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under six months old without first speaking to your health care provider. Never give aspirin to children.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If your baby is having trouble drinking, try to clear nasal congestion with a bulb syringe or saline nose drops.
  • A lukewarm bath or wet face cloth may help your child feel more comfortable. Avoid cold baths because they can make your child shiver, raising their temperature.
  • Dress your child in light clothing. If your child starts to shiver, add warmer clothing and remove them when the shivering stops.
  • Consult your health care provider before giving your child non-prescription cold medicines or if have concerns about your child’s symptoms.


When should I call a doctor or go to an emergency department?

You should take your child to an emergency department if they:

  • Have trouble breathing, pale skin, lips that look white or blue, asthma or wheezing;
  • Are younger than three months old and have any of the following symptoms:
    • Fever and very sleepy or difficult to wake;
    • Repeated vomiting and unable to keep any liquids down for eight hours or more;
    • Vomiting or diarrhea containing a large amount of blood;
    • Signs of dehydration with dry mouth or no urination for eight hours or more.


How can I protect my child from RSV?

  • Keep your child at home if they are sick and avoid sick relatives
  • Clean surfaces in your home that are touched often
  • Wash your hands and your child’s hands often
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve
  • Breastfeed your baby, if possible
  • Avoid cigarette smoke


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