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RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus

What is RSV?

RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus infection. It causes the same symptoms as a bad cold. And like a cold, it is very common and spreads easily. Most children have had it at least once by age 2. There are many kinds of RSV, so your child’s body never becomes immune to it. Your child can get it again and again, sometimes during the same season.

What are the symptoms?

Unlike the common cold, the flu comes on suddenly and the symptoms can be more severe

  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Fever

How can you prevent RSV infection?

It is very hard to keep from catching RSV, just like it is hard to keep from catching a cold. But you can lower the chances by practicing good health habits. Wash your hands often and teach your child to do the same.

How is RSV treated?

Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. There is no specific treatment for RSV infection.

  • Suction mucus from your baby’s nose if your baby can’t breathe well enough to eat or sleep.
  • Manage fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Never give aspirin to children.
  • Give your child lots of fluids. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea.
  • Follow-up care is a key part of your child’s treatment and safety.

RSV can cause more serious health problems

Healthy adults and infants infected with RSV do not usually need to be hospitalized. But some people with RSV infection, especially older adults and infants younger than 2 years of age, may develop pneumonia or bronchiolitis. They may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated. In most severe cases, a person may require additional oxygen, or IV fluids (if they can’t eat or drink enough).


Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the small airways in the lung. Symptoms may begin as mild, as described above. As bronchiolitis progresses, more serious symptoms can start, such as:

  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Pauses between breathings
  • Wheezing
  • A severe cough
  • Trouble eating and drinking

Call your doctor if your child is wheezing or having trouble breathing.

Call 9-1-1 if your child:

  • Stops breathing
  • Has blue or gray lips, gums, or fingernails
  • Has a very hard time breathing
  • Starts grunting
  • Looks like they are getting tired from working so hard to breathe
You can learn more about RSV by visiting the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Website