What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

Respiratory Syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) Virus is also called RSV. It is a virus that is inside the lungs of infants and children. They have a hard time breathing because the virus makes a lot of mucus. RSV can spread into the air or onto the skin very quickly when someone who has it coughs, sneezes, or touches other people.

Infants and children who are two years old or younger get RSV the most because they are too young to easily protect themselves from bad germs. Almost every child will get RSV.

Tactile version of RSV virus - sphere with curly protrusions around the sphere.


Cutaway view shows RSV inflamed bronchial wall. Photo source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/respiratory-syncytial-virus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353098









RSV Symptoms

Infants usually get RSV that can be very dangerous for them. It can even cause death. They should go to the hospital so the doctors can help them become better. Their symptoms may be:

  • Fever
  • Not breathing right (fast breathing or pulling in air too hard)
  • Blue skin (on the lips or in the nail beds)
  • Coughing a lot
  • Tired and cranky
  • Not eating well
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched noise when you breathe out)

Sometimes, RSV doesn’t make babies and children very sick. Their symptoms may be like a cold:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • A little fever
  • Sore throat
  • Small headache
If you’re child has RSV, they may get;
  • Pneumonia (when lungs fill up with liquid)
  • Bronchiolitis (when the lungs get very big)
  • A virus inside the ear called middle ear infection
  • Asthma as the child grows up
How to prevent from getting RSV
  • Wash hands when touching something dirty or before eating.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Clean everything in the house.
  • Do not share drinks with anyone.
  • Do not smoke around infants and children.
How to check if your child has RSV
  • Doctors can check if children have the germ from a little bit of mucus in the mouth or nose.
  • Infants who were born too early and unhealthy children should take a medicine called Palivizumab. It helps prevent them from getting RSV.
  • If an infant goes to the hospital, the doctors might give them an IV, oxygen mask, and medication to help them breath better.
  • There is no medication to make RSV go away. Medicine only makes the symptoms go away. You can get RSV again but the symptoms won’t be bad like the first time.
  • A child who is not very sick with RSV will get better in about 2 weeks with medicine for a cold.


Kid’s Health

Mayo Clinic