RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is the major cause of lung infections in young children and babies. RSV is so common that virtually all children have been infected with the virus by the age of 3. Many children have the illness more than once. RSV usually results in mild, cold-like symptoms. In some cases, it can cause serious lung infections and breathing problems. Because of this, it is important to know what to do if you suspect serious RSV infection.

Two boys washing hands in sink. How RSV Spreads

RSV spreads easily from person to person through fluids from the nose and mouth of an infected person. It spreads quickly in group settings, such as daycare and schools.

Symptoms of RSV

Most babies and children with an RSV infection have the same symptoms they might have with a cold or flu. These include a stuffy or runny nose, a cough, headache, and a low fever.

Treating RSV

Treatment will focus on relieving your child’s symptoms and ensuring that the infection does not get worse. Antibiotics are not useful against viruses, so they are not prescribed. Try the following to help your child feel more comfortable and get better faster:

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • A fever higher than 101°F

  • A harsh or persistent cough

  • Wheezing, breathing faster than usual, or trouble breathing

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Flaring of the nostrils or straining of the chest or stomach while breathing in

  • Restless or irritable, unable to be soothed

  • Unusually drowsy or listless

  • Less urination or dry mouth or cracked lips

  • Trouble eating, drinking, or swallowing

Preventing RSV Infection

To help prevent the infection:

Last Annual Review Date: 2008-01-01T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.