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Updated on December 2, 2011

What is R.S.V. or Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

I was first made aware of R.S.V. at my children's Daycare. As I was dropping them off one day, I notice a sign that read, "There has been a case of R.S.V. in the 2 year old's room, if your child has the symptoms, please don't bring them to daycare and make a Doctors appointment". "What?", I thought, "well, what are the symptoms?" Of course in the mornings at Daycare it is quite busy so I decided to wait until I got home to search the Internet for some more information.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus:A major & most common cause of serious respiratory illness in children under the age of four. It causes serious infections of the lungs and breathing passages. RSV infections can lead to other serious illnesses in premature babies and other children that already have diseases effecting the lungs, heart and immune system. It is so common that nearly all children will become infected by the age of three.

R.S.V. is spread by either direct contact with respiratory secretions or by indirect contact through toys or objects from a person that is infected.

R.S.V. is responsible for approximately 500 deaths a year in infants and children.

Doctor explaining R.S.V. symptoms & treatments and other information

Symptoms of R.S.V in children.:

Signs and symptoms of R.S.V. may start with hours or days from exposure depending on age. Younger children may experience symptoms with in hours of exposure while older children and adults may take days to display signs and symptoms after exposure. In young children it may begin with a running nose and a cough and then turn into the fever and other breathing problems.

In infants , they may become irritable and listless and their feedings may decrease or become irregular.


  • Stuffy nose and nasal flaring
  • Deep cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Low grade fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Ear Infection
  • Panting or Retractions of the chest wall( the visible pulling in of the chest wall)
  • Rattling of the chest that may be felt through the child's back or chest


When determining if the child has R.S.V., your pediatrician will due the following:

  • Test Nasal secretions with a swab
  • Take a chest x-ray- to determine if it's R.S.V. or Bronchiolitis
  • Perform a blood oxygen test- this is a "band-aid" type instrument that is placed on the finger to measure the blood oxygen level

Do Not Give Newborns Waters unless Directed to by Pediatrician


Because R.S.V. is a virus, one can only treat the symptoms. Antibiotics are used for Bacterial infections, therefore, will not work on a viral infection like R.S.V. Hospitalization may be required if your child is a premature infant or already has a known respiratory disease.

Treatments include:

  • Fever with non-aspirin medications such as children's Tylenol or Advil
  • Dehydration- for infants, it's making sure that at least feed on their breast-milk or formula, Do not feed a newborn water. For older children, it's making sure they have plenty of fluids such as water and juices.
  • Congestion- in infants and younger children this may require the bulb suctioning of the nose and/or throat, this will make eating and sleeping more comfortable as well. Nasal mists ( saline) are also helpful when used in conjunction with bulb suctioning for clearing out mucus and soothing the nasal passages
  • For children requiring hospitalization, breathing treatments with a nebulizer and additional oxygen may be given, as well as steroids for the lungs.

Six Steps to Washing Your Hands

Helpful Books on Childhood Illnesses:


As mentioned earlier, most children will come in contact at some point with the virus before the age of three. There are some tips that can lessen your child's risk of becoming infected listed below:

  • Do not allow any persons with any illnesses or cold to visit your baby
  • Avoid crowded places such as Malls and shopping centers
  • No smoking in your home or around your child
  • Make sure anyone coming into contact with your infant washes their hands first
  • Teach your children the importance of frequent hand washing and also make sure your child care provider follows the same instructions
  • Avoid taking your child to Daycare if at all possible during the December to April time-frames when R.S.V. is at it's highest( depending on where you live)
  • Talk to your Pediatrician regarding "Flu shots" for children over the age of two
  • For those children at high risk, talk to your Pediatrician about preventative medicines for R.S.V.


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