Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common cause of many lung and airway infections. Examples of infections include:
RSV can infect people of all ages. Infants, young children, and older people tend to have more serious infections. In severe cases, RSV infections can lead to death.
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RSV is spreads easily through fluids of the mouth and nose. The virus can live on surfaces and objects for hours. People touch the surface with the virus then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. This is the easiest way for the virus to spread. It can also be spread by inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Someone with the virus may be able to pass it on for 3-8 days.
RSV is more common in infants and young children. Those under 2 years old have highest risk. Other factors that may increase your chance of RSV include:
The symptoms can vary with age. You may also react different if you have been infected with RSV before. Very young children, elderly people, and people with chronic diseases are more likely to have severe symptoms.
In children younger than 3 years old, symptoms may include:
In children older than 3 years old, and healthy adults, symptoms commonly include:
You will be asked about any symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will suspect a virus based on your symptoms.
There are tests to diagnose RSV. However, they are not usually needed. The result will not affect treatment plan.
Antibiotics are not helpful because RSV is caused by a virus.
Mild infections such as colds will pass on their own. Some steps will help to ease symptoms and decrease discomfort:
Note : Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
Severe infections may need care in a hospital. A medical team can help to keep airways open. Treatment may include:
To help reduce your chance of RSV:
American Lung Association
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/rsv. Updated June 26, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018.
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 12/12/2018