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Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Ambulatory Care


A respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection

is a condition that causes your child's 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.

Common early symptoms include the following:

RSV infection begins like a common cold. When your child first gets ill, he may have any of the following:

  • Breathing faster than usual
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Not eating or sleeping as well as usual
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Wheezing

Common late symptoms include the following:

  • Trouble breathing:
    • Very fast breathing (60 to 70 breaths or more in 1 minute)
    • Grunting and increased wheezing or noisy breathing
    • Increased coughing
    • Nostrils become wider when breathing in
    • Pale or bluish skin, lips, fingernails, or toenails
    • Pauses in breathing for at least 15 seconds
    • Pulling in of the skin between the ribs and around the neck with each breath
  • Other signs and symptoms:
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Loss of appetite or poor feeding
    • More irritable or fussy than before
    • More sleepy than usual, has trouble staying awake, or does not respond to you
    • Urinating little or not at all
    • Coughing that causes vomiting

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing or pauses in his breathing
  • Crying without tears
  • Dry mouth or cracked lips
  • More irritable or sleepy than normal
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of the head, if he is younger than 1 year old
  • Urinating less than usual, or not at all
  • Blue lips or nails

Treatment for a RSV

may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Give your child liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him. Your child may need to drink more liquids than usual to prevent dehydration.
  • 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 healthcare provider how to use a bulb syringe. Ask for information about nose drops that help thin your child's mucus.

Prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. Use gel hand cleaner when soap and water is not available. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Keep your child away from others. This will help prevent spreading the virus to others.
  • Clean toys and surfaces. Clean toys that are shared with other children. Use a disinfectant solution to clean common surfaces.
  • Do not smoke around your child or expose your child to smoke. Smoke can make your child's symptoms worse.
  • 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 healthcare provider if this medicine is right for your child.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.