RSV: A Guide For Parents

Get The Facts About Respiratory Syncytial Virus

What is RSV?
RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the most frequent cause of serious respiratory tract infections in infants and children younger than 4 years of age. This is such a common virus that virtually all children have been infected with RSV by the age of 3. In most young children, it results in a mild respiratory infection that is not distinguishable from a common cold. In a select few, it can be a devastating infection/illness.

Where does RSV come from?
A person becomes infected by coming in contact with another infected person or with the secretions from an infected person. An infant can acquire the infection from contact with an older family member who may only have mild, cold-like symptoms.

When a family member is infected, extra precautions may be taken by washing hands often and preventing the spread of infectious secretions on tissues and objects.

When Does RSV occur?
RSV occurs throughout the year, but is most prevalent during the winter months.

How can I prevent being infected?
To prevent the spread of RSV, your child will be put in isolation. This means you and our staff will have to take extra precautions when coming in contact with your child. Wearing gowns, gloves, and masks prevents spreading it to others. Good hand washing is required. Always wash your hands before leaving the room.

To prevent the spread of RSV you will also be asked to limit the number of people who come in contact with your sick child. Please check at the Nurse's Station regarding the appropriateness of visitors.

Can RSV be serious?
Yes. An infant or young child who is experiencing his or her first RSV infection may develop a severe infection in the lower respiratory tract that is best managed in the hospital. About 90,000 children are hospitalized with RSV each year, most commonly newborns and infants who have other complicating or underlying conditions.

What are the symptoms of RSV?
RSV causes nasal stuffiness and discharge, cough, and sometimes ear infections. It is usually self-limiting and does not require hospitalization or specific treatment. These children may have a low-grade fever for several days, respiratory symptoms that may last for 1 to 2 weeks, and a cough that sometimes persists beyond 2 weeks.

How do I know if my child has a serious RSV infection?
A child who develops stressful breathing, deeper and more frequent coughing, and generally looks sicker by appearing tired (less playful and less interested in food) may have developed a more serious RSV infection. Your doctor may order a nasal swab and/or nasopharygeal washing to confirm the diagnosis (lab test).

When should I call the doctor?
As in any case of illness, you should call your physician whenever you are worried about your child. In general, the physician will prefer to examine ill infants in person, as severity may be impossible to determine over the phone. Certainly, if the respiratory symptoms appear to interfere with your child's ability to sleep or drink, or if the child appears to have difficult or rapid breathing, you should call your doctor. If your child is younger than one year old and has an underlying disease such as heart or lung disease, or was premature with lung disease developing after birth, you should let your doctor know whenever the baby develops a respiratory infection.

How is a RSV infection treated?
Usually RSV infection is self-limiting and requires no specific therapy. If your child has a fever, your physician may prescribe some medication to control it. If he or she develops an ear infection associated with RSV, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Most children exhibiting the respiratory symptoms commonly associated with RSV (such as a stuffy nose and cough) require no treatment; however, supportive therapy (Albuterol nebulizer and steroids) may help relieve the symptoms faster in some children.

If your child is hospitalized....

  • Isolation and use of gowns, gloves, and possibly masks will be required
  • Please check at the Nurse's Station before visiting

Please ask nursing if you need help or more information