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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

What is RSV?

RSV is a virus that causes colds in people of all ages. RSV also can cause a serious lung infection in infants and young children. Most children will get RSV by the age of three. RSV is most common during the winter months.

What are the Symptoms of RSV?

  • Clear drainage from the nose
  • Cough
  • Fussiness
  • Your child may seem very tired, less active
  • Your child may not want to eat
  • Loud or fast breathing
  • Wheezing (a tight whistling or musical sound heard when your child breathes)
  • Your child’s chest sinks in with each breath
  • Low grade fever (in some children)
  • Your child stops breathing- this is not common. Premature infants are at highest risk.

How is RSV Treated?

Most children with RSV get better without medical treatment. Some children, especially newborns, premature infants, or infants with heart or lung problems may be sicker and need to be hospitalized. The most important thing hospitalization provides is oxygen and close observation. For some children, breathing treatments or fever medicines may help. It is also important that your child receives enough fluids to keep him well hydrated. A bulb syringe may be used to clear your child’s nose and help to keep his airway clear. We may also use suction catheters in the hospital.

How did your child get RSV?

RSV, like other cold viruses, is easy to spread to other people. Sometimes it can be spread by close contact with a person who is sneezing or coughing or touching things that have RSV on them. The most common way to spread RSV is by hand contact. People “catch” RSV from other people who have colds caused by RSV.

How can you prevent others from getting RSV?

Good hand washing is the best way to prevent anyone else from getting the virus that causes RSV (and other infections, too). You, anyone else who touches your child, must wash your hands or use an alcohol hand rub. You should also cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and then wash your hands.

If your child is hospitalized, he will be placed on “Contact Precautions” to help prevent other children from getting RSV. Your child may also be on “Droplet Precautions” to protect healthcare workers from getting RSV.

Contact Precautions while in the hospital:

Other visitors, and everyone else including employees and doctors need to:

  • 1) wash hands before and after touching your child or other things at your child’s bedside
  • 2) wear a gown and gloves when handling your child

NOTE: We advise you to wear a gown when holding your child to prevent the virus from spreading to other people who may touch your clothes.

“Droplet Precautions” means that healthcare workers who are in close contact with your child will wear masks and eye protection to keep from catching RSV.

  • You need to wash your hands before handling things that are shared with other people such as telephones, TV’s, chairs, bathrooms, etc.
  • Also, if your child’s roommate or parent needs anything (pacifier needs to be picked up, crying child needs to be comforted, etc.) call a nurse for help.
  • If your child is not in a private room, he must stay in the area around his bed. Your child cannot go to see other patients or walk in the hallway.
  • Your child must not share toys or other items with other children and families in the hospital.
  • Other children are not permitted to visit.
  • Other visitors will need to wash their hands before and after visiting and wear gloves and gowns while in the room.

Can your child get RSV again?

Yes, your child can get RSV again, but most likely it will be milder than the first time. Helpful Hints:

  • Give extra liquids by mouth (examples: juice, Jell-O, Popsicles, or Pedialyte for infants.)
  • Keep your child's nose clean. Have your child blow his nose or use a bulb syringe.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 09/2012