Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Rsv

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a respiratory virus that affects the lungs and breathing passages. RSV in infants and young children with heart, immune or respiratory conditions can be quite serious. The RSV virus usually begins with the common cold symptoms of a stuffy, runny nose, cough, and headache in adults.

RSV is extremely contagious and spreads through fluid droplets in the air. The RSV virus can live on surfaces, making it easy to acquire by touching infected objects. Frequent hand washing is the best way to lessen the likelihood of spreading RSV.

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RSV Symptoms

Symptoms of RSV will typically occur four to six days after exposure to the virus; these first RSV symptoms include a runny nose and a decrease in appetite. About one to three days later, coughing, sneezing and fever usually develop. Some children with the RSV virus may even begin wheezing.

RSV in infants may present itself only through decreased activity and difficulty in breathing. Hospitalization isn’t always required in otherwise healthy infants and children. You can expect RSV in infants to last between one and two weeks.

RSV Treatment for Children

Most cases of RSV are mild, and require no specific medical treatment. Antibiotics are ineffective against RSV because it is a virus. However, medications may be prescribed to open and maintain airways, if needed.

Doctors will often watch cases of RSV in infants very carefully; there’s actually a greater infection’s potential of the virus becoming more serious. Often times, hospitalization may be required to accomplish the following:

  • Better monitor a baby’s condition
  • Give intravenous fluids
  • Provide breathing treatments.

There are steps you can take at home to make your child more comfortable. Some recommendations are the following:

  • A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can be used to add moisture to the air, particularly in winter when air is the driest.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to bring down fevers. Do not give aspirin in the case of a virus, as it’s been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness.
  • Be sure to offer plenty of rest and fluids. If your child isn’t receptive to drinking, you may need to give liquids in smaller amounts, and with more frequency.
  • Use a bulb syringe to remove mucus in children who are too young to blow their nose on their own. Encourage frequent nose-blowing in older children.

Call your physician if your child’s condition worsens, or you notice signs of dehydration. If your baby refuses to be fed or is extremely irritable, you’ll also want to contact your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice difficulty breathing, extreme lethargy, or blue lips or fingernails.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (n.d.) Respiratory syncytial virus. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site:

Klein, J. (2009). Infections: Respiratory syncytial virus. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site:

Medline Plus Staff. (n.d.) Respiratory syncytial virus infections. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Med Line Plus Web site: