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Respiratory Syncytial Virus


A respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is an condition that causes your child's small airways to become inflamed and swollen. This virus is the most frequent cause of lung infections in infants and young children. An RSV infection often leads to other lung problems, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia. An RSV infection can happen at any age, but happens more often in children younger than 2 years old. An RSV infection usually lasts 5 to 15 days. Most RSV infections go away on their own. A child with an RSV infection can usually be treated at home. Children at risk for severe illness may need to receive hospital treatment.



  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Care for your child's symptoms:

  • Prevent dehydration: Encourage your child to drink liquids often. Ask your child's primary healthcare provider how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him.

  • Nasal mucus removal: Use a bulb syringe to suck out mucus from your child's nose. Do this before you feed him so it is easier for him to drink and eat. Ask your child's primary healthcare provider how to use a bulb syringe. Ask for information about nose drops to help thin your child's mucus.

Prevent RSV infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently: Keep your and your child's hands clean. This is the most important thing you can do to prevent spreading RSV and other germs. Wash often with soap and water to remove germs from your hands. A germ-killing hand lotion or gel may be used when no water available.

  • Avoid people who are ill: Try to keep your child away from people with colds or other respiratory infections.

  • Clean toys and other objects: These include toys that are shared with other children and items touched by sick children or adults. Clean surfaces with soap and water, or with a disinfectant (germ-killing solution).

  • Do not expose your child to smoke: Never smoke around or allow others to smoke around your child.

  • Ask about medicine that protects against severe RSV: Your child may need to receive antiviral medicine to help protect him from severe illness. This may be given if your child has a high risk of becoming severely ill from RSV. When needed, your child will receive 1 dose every month for 5 months. The first dose is usually given in early November. Ask your child's primary healthcare provider if this medicine is right for your child.

For more information:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 404 - 6393311
    Phone: 1- 800 - 3113435
    Web Address:

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever and is wheezing.

  • Your child is not eating, has nausea, or is vomiting.

  • Your child is very tired or weak or is sleeping more than usual.

  • Your child is breathing fast:

    • More than 50 breaths in 1 minute if he is 6 months or younger.

    • More than 40 breaths in 1 minute if he is 6 to 11 months old.

    • More than 30 breaths in 1 minute if he is 1 year or older.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a hard time breathing, or pauses in his breathing.

  • Your child has signs of dehydration:

    • Crying without tears

    • Dry mouth or cracked lips

    • More irritable or sleepy than normal

    • Sunken soft spot on the top of the head, if your child is younger than 1 year old

    • Urinating less than usual, or not at all.

  • Your child's lips or nails turn blue.

  • Your child's symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.