Girl blowing dandelion

RSV - Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratry syncytial virus, also called RSV, is a common respiratory infection and is the most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and children less than 1 year old.  RSV is responsible for about 90,000 hospital admissions and 4,500 deaths each year in young children and infants.

How is RSV Spread?

RSV is spread by hand-to-hand contact or by comming in contact with surfaces or objects that have the virus on them.  RSV enters the body by way of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.  The virus does not survive very long outside of the body (only a few hours) and can easily be eliminated with soap and water and disinfectants.

RSV Symptoms

While RSV can infect anyone at any age, this virus is certainly more serious in infants and young children than in adults.  When an adult or child older than 3 years of age has an RSV infection, symptoms are similar to that of a common cold including runny nose, sore throat, and fever.  However, RSV infections in infants and young children can lead to symptoms that range from mild (runny nose and cough) to severe (high fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, blue color to lips and fingers, or change in alertness).

Treatment for RSV

Since antibiotics do not kill viruses, they are not used to treat RSV infections.  The treatment for RSV is mainly supportive care such as keeping fever down and drinking plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration while the body does it's job to kill the virus. Supplemental oxygen and/or a croup tent may be needed to treat more serious cases of RSV.

How Long do RSV Infections Last

RSV infections generally last 7-15 days.  The Respiratory Syncytial Virus is most contageous during the first 2-4 days after infection but can be spread for up to 2 weeks.