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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Symptoms, diagnosis, transmission, and treatments

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Symptoms, diagnosis, transmission, and treatments

How would you describe the common cold? Most of us would probably just say a cold — but if you’re talking about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), that’s technically not correct.

Although RSV and the common cold both cause your nose to run, coughing, sneezing, and sore throat, they are caused by different viruses.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can affect anyone but is most common in infants and toddlers under age 2 years old, while the common cold usually affects older children and adults.

What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system. It is a common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia in young children.

RSV can also cause upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds, in adults and children. The virus is spread through contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or blood, from an infected person.

Usually, symptoms of RSV are mild to moderate but can become serious for people who have other medical conditions like asthma or heart disease.

People who have never been exposed to RSV before may be more likely to experience severe symptoms. Most infants acquire immunity against RSV by 6 months of age.

Older children usually contract the virus after they turn one year old, although some people get it later in life. Babies under six months old are at greatest risk for developing severe RSV infection.

Colds caused by RSV usually last around two weeks while pneumonia caused by RSV lasts around two weeks to three months, depending on severity.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

The symptoms of RSV include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Some people may also have a fever, runny nose, or sore throat.

In severe cases, RSV can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis. RSV is usually transmitted through droplets in the air from someone with the virus who is showing symptoms.

It is not transmitted through contact with objects like toilet seats or door knobs. There are no medications that treat RSV; however, in some cases acetaminophen for fever and ibuprofen for pain relief may be prescribed by a doctor.

How do I know if my child has RSV?

If your child has RSV, they may have cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, and wheezing. They may also have a fever. In some cases, RSV can lead to more serious problems such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

If you think your child has RSV, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment is important for preventing serious complications.

The most common form of RSV in children under age two is the B strain. There are two types of this virus – A and B. The A strain tends to cause more severe disease in adults but not children; however, it does not affect pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems the same way that the B strain does.

Some babies infected with the A strain will develop less severe respiratory illness than those infected with the B strain but this virus does not typically result in hospitalization or death when caught early enough.

How do I care for my child with RSV?

If your child has RSV, it’s important to take extra care to prevent the virus from spreading. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands often and well, especially before you touch your child.
  • Keep your child away from other children and adults who are sick.
  • Don’t smoke around your child.
  • Clean any surfaces that your child may have touched, such as toys or countertops.
  • Stay in a separate room with your child until he is feeling better.
  • Get plenty of rest yourself to stay healthy and able to take care of others.
  • If your child starts wheezing, ask for medical help right away.
  • RSV usually clears up on its own within one to two weeks without treatment. However, there are things that can be done to reduce symptoms and make breathing easier during this time.

Can adults get RSV?


Adults can get RSV, although it is most common in infants and young children. Symptoms of RSV in adults are typically milder than in children, but can still include fever, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and wheezing.

RSV is usually spread through contact with respiratory secretions (such as saliva or mucus) from an infected person.

Treatment for RSV typically includes rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.

Should pregnant women be concerned about getting RSV?


Pregnant women should be concerned about getting RSV. Although the virus is usually mild, it can cause serious respiratory problems in some people.

If you are pregnant and have symptoms of RSV, see your doctor right away.

RSV is spread through contact with respiratory secretions, so it is important to wash your hands often and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

There is no specific treatment for RSV, but your doctor may recommend taking steps to relieve your symptoms.

Is there a vaccine for RSV?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for RSV. However, researchers are working on developing a vaccine that could be available in the future. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of RSV.

  • Wash your hands regularly and often, especially before you touch your face or someone else.
    Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    Disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus.
  • Make sure everyone washes their hands.
  • Do not share items like cups, eating utensils, towels, or toys with anyone unless they have washed their hands first.

If you’re caring for an infant younger than six months old who has symptoms of RSV and you’re concerned about being infected yourself, make sure to stay away from other children under six months old while caring for your child so that they don’t get infected by coming into contact with any droplets expelled from your mouth as you care for them.

Is there any treatment for people with RSV?

Although there is no cure for RSV, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. In some cases, this may require hospitalization.

Treatment options include administering an antiviral medication to help reduce the severity of the infection, or in severe cases oxygen therapy to help people breathe more easily.

A person with RSV should rest as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

If a person has chronic lung disease such as asthma or emphysema, they should consult their doctor before taking any medications that can make breathing more difficult because of these diseases.

Should children with compromised immune systems receive the vaccination against RSV?

Although the vaccination is not currently recommended for children with compromised immune systems, this may change in the future as more research is conducted.

In the meantime, it is important for parents of children with compromised immune systems to be aware of the symptoms of RSV and to seek medical treatment if their child contracts the virus.

For children who are otherwise healthy, the vaccine will provide protection against a serious illness and help keep them healthy during cold and flu season.

RSV can also be spread by contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough, so parents should always take precautions to keep their children away from anyone who has an infection or illness that could result in transmission of respiratory syncytial virus.

Transmission of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that can cause severe respiratory illness in infants and young children.

Although most people recover from RSV without any problems, some people may develop more serious illness, such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

RSV is spread through contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or blood, from an infected person. The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.


If you think you or your child may have RSV, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious complications. There is no specific cure for RSV, but there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms. And while there is no vaccine to prevent RSV, there are ways to reduce your risk of exposure. By understanding the symptoms, transmission, and treatments for RSV, you can help protect yourself and your family during RSV season.

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