What do I need to know about RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common infection that affects most children within their first 2 years of life. The virus is easy to catch because it is spread by:

  • close physical contact (such as kissing or shaking hands)
  • sneezing and coughing
  • contact with surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus (e.g., baby toys or furniture)

For most babies, RSV infection causes a fever and symptoms similar to a cold, such as:

  • runny or stuffy nose
  • coughing (dry cough)
  • mild headache
  • sore throat
  • feeling unwell

However, RSV can cause more serious problems for some babies, including pneumonia (lung infection) and bronchiolitis (infection of the tiny airways in the lungs). If either of these occurs, the baby may need to be hospitalized.

Symptoms of serious health problems such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis include:

  • wheezing
  • fast or shallow breathing
  • difficulty breathing (your child may prefer to sit up, which makes breathing easier, rather than lie down)
  • bluish skin color
  • high fever
  • severe coughing

If your baby has a high fever, a bluish colour, or difficulty breathing, get immediate medical attention.

Milder cases of RSV may be treated at home by giving the child plenty of fluids, using a humidifier or vaporizer if the air is dry, and using non-prescription medications to reduce fever if needed. Babies with more severe RSV may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids, medications to make breathing easier, and oxygen. These treatments are used to manage the symptoms of RSV - they do not cure the infection. The body must get rid of the infection on its own.

Certain babies have a higher risk of serious health problems from RSV infection. To find out if your baby is at risk, see "RSV complications: Is my baby at risk?"

Most cases of RSV occur during the "RSV season." In Canada, RSV season starts between November and January, and is usually over by the end of April. To reduce your baby's risk, it's important to be prepared. See "How to prepare for RSV season" to learn more.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Are-You-Ready-for-RSV-Season