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Respiratory Syncytial Virus


An RSV infection is a condition that causes your child's airway to become inflamed and swollen. This virus is the most common 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. 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.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Emotional support:

Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.


Your child may be in isolation if he has an infection or disease that he can spread to others. Caregivers and visitors may need to wear gloves, a face mask, and a gown. Everyone should wash their hands before and after visiting your child.

Pulse oximeter:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child's foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.


is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.


  • Antiviral medicine may be given if your child has a severe infection or if he is at risk for severe infection.
  • Bronchodilators may be given to help open the airways in your child's lungs. The medicine is mixed with air or oxygen in a machine to change it into a mist. The mist makes it easier for your child to breathe the medicine into his lungs. Breathing treatments are usually given through a mouthpiece or mask attached to the nebulizer.
  • Fever medicine may be given.
  • Surfactant may be given if your infant is on a ventilator. Surfactant may be given through a tube to help your infant breathe easier. Your infant may receive more than 1 dose.


  • Blood tests may be used to check for the respiratory syncytial virus.
  • X-ray pictures of your child's lungs and heart may be used to check for infection.
  • A culture is a test to grow and identify the germ that is causing your child's condition. A culture may be done from swab samples taken from your child's throat or nose.
  • A nasal wash is used to test a sample of mucus from your child's nose for the germ causing his symptoms.


  • Mucus removal is a procedure used to suck mucus from your child's nose with a bulb syringe. This may be done before you feed him so it is easier for him to drink and eat.
  • Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • An endotracheal (ET) tube may be used to help your child breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator.


Your child may have trouble eating because of his breathing problems. A tube may be put in his mouth or nose and into his stomach to feed him while he is sick.


  • Your child can get an RSV infection more than once. Even with treatment, RSV may cause severe, life-threatening illness if your child has heart or other lung problems. Fast breathing may cause feeding problems. A cough can cause him to vomit after he eats. This may cause your child to lose weight or not gain weight as he should. Your child may also get dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to problems with his organs, such as his heart, brain, or kidneys.
  • Your child's breathing problems may become worse and the amount of oxygen inside his body may decrease. When your child's body does not get enough oxygen, organs such as the kidneys, heart, and brain can be damaged. These problems can be life-threatening.


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

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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.