What is it?

RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus is a very common respiratory illness that circulates in the fall and winter months, and typically causes mild cold symptoms like cough, runny nose and fever. It can cause more severe symptoms like wheezing, respiratory distress, and low oxygen levels in some patients. 

How is it transmitted? 

  • RSV can be spread by droplets 
    • Example: when someone coughs or sneezes and those droplets land on your face or something you touch, and then you touch your face
  • RSV can also be spread by direct contact with someone’s saliva:
    • Example: An infected person kissing a baby’s face
  • The virus can survive for many hours on hard surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, and crib rails, but soft surfaces such as tissues and hands hold onto the virus for less time.
  • Infected persons will start showing symptoms 4-6 days after contracting the virus. People with RSV are typically contagious for 3-8 days after symptoms start. 

Who can be infected?

Anyone of any age can contract RSV. It can be spread from one person to another in the household. The disease becomes less severe the older you get. Nearly all children will have had RSV by the time they’re 2 years old (most times without even knowing they were infected).

  • It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lower respiratory tract) in children under 1.

Who is more at risk?

  • Premature infants
  • Young children with congenital heart or chronic lung disease
  • Young children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment
  • Adults with compromised immune systems
  • Older adults, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease

What are the symptoms?

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever (> 100.4)
  • Wheezing
  • Decreased appetite (bottle/breast refusal) or energy

Younger infants (<6 months old) may have decreased appetite (refusal of bottles/breast) and runny nose as their first symptoms, before a cough or fever even develop.

How do you treat it?

This is a virus, meaning we CANNOT treat it with antibiotics. Rather, we treat the symptoms themselves.

  • Performs lots of suctioning to keep those upper airways clear. You can do this with a nasal aspirator or bulb suction, along with some saline drops or spray to help lubricate and loosen the secretions. Or if they are old enough, have them blow their nose frequently.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, pain, or discomfort.
  • Offer lots of fluids to help maintain hydration.
  • Here are some good products to have on hand:

When should you seek help?

The symptoms (mainly cough & runny nose) can linger for several weeks, and unfortunately there's no quick fix for this. Our main concern is respiratory distress and dehydration.

  • Dehydration:
    • The best way to monitor this at home is to count wet diapers
    • No matter how sick your child is they should pee at least every 6-8 hours.
  • Respiratory distress includes any or all of the symptoms below.
    • pale or bluish color - check the face, lips, and nail beds
    • retractions - check to see if the chest pulls in around the ribs and/or collarbone with each breath.
    • nasal flaring - nostrils widen when they take in a breath.
    • noisy breathing - grunting or wheezing
    • change in body position - they may move around, lean forward, or extend their neck to try and breathe more comfortably
    • increased breathing rate - you will have to count their number of breaths in one minute. Normal rates are: 
      • < 1 yr old: 30 - 60 breaths per minute.
      • 1 yr - 3 yr: 25 - 45 breaths per minute
      • > 3 yrs: 20 - 30 breaths per minute

How can you prevent it?

  • Frequently wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid kissing, sharing cups or utensils, or shaking hands.
  • Clean or wipe down frequently touched surfaces (don't forget to wipe down mobile devices!)
  • Stay home when feeling sick.
  • Avoid touching your face when out in public.