Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.
RSV is spread in the following ways:
RSV can spread quickly through enclosed, shared spaces, such as day care centers, schools, or crowded households.
In children and babies under 12 months in the United States, the most common complications of RSV are bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
In adults, RSV can cause pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or worsening of chronic conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF).
These prevention tips will help prevent any respiratory illness, not just RSV, and are good practice for the entire family.
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4- 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties.
Mild symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, mild congestion, and low-grade fever. Low-grade fevers are:
You or your child may have decreased appetite but taking enough fluids. You can tell if your child is taking in enough fluids by how often they urinate. In babies and toddlers, this means a wet diaper at least every 8 hours. For children ages 3 years and older, this means urinating at least once every 10 hours.
Rest, drink plenty of fluids and monitor symptoms. In most cases, you or your child should start feeling better within a few days.
There are many respiratory viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms. If the symptoms are mild, it is not necessary to know what virus is causing symptoms. Most cases of RSV and other viruses go away on their own in 1-2 weeks. If you are concerned about COVID, you or your child should take a COVID-19 home test.
Call your child’s care team if your child shows any of the following symptoms:
Call your primary care physician if you develop any of the following symptoms:
Go to the Emergency Department if you or your child is having severe symptoms, such as:
There are no RSV-specific mediations for treatment. Antibiotics do not treat RSV. For severe cases being treated in the hospital, you or your child may receive:
You or your child may also receive other medications depending on their underlying conditions.
Yes. Palivizumab is a medication to lessen the chances of babies and children developing severe RSV. It can also help prevent serious complications from RSV. It is given as an injection every month during RSV season, which generally starts in the fall and peaks in the winter in most locations in the United States. Palivizumab does not treat RSV.
Palivizumab is intended for babies under 6 months of age and children who are at risk of developing severe RSV. This includes babies and children with any of the following:
There is no vaccine available for RSV yet. Vaccine companies are working to develop an RSV vaccine. These vaccines are in various stages of development.