Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Anyone can be infected with RSV and most people recover in a week or two. However, infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV symptoms that may require hospitalization. Learn more about RSV.
CDC has recommended new vaccines and immunizations to protect those most at risk of getting very sick with RSV: infants, toddlers, and adults 60 years and older. Talk to your health care provider about whether RSV vaccination is right for you or your child. Learn more about RSV vaccination.
Things you can do to help reduce the spread of RSV and other respiratory illnesses:
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your shirt sleeve, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with others, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.
Frequently Asked Questions
RSV can spread when:
- An infected person coughs or sneezes
- You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
- You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV
- You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands
People are typically infected with RSV for the first time as an infant or toddler and nearly all children are infected before their second birthday. However, repeat infections may occur throughout life, and people of any age can be infected. Learn more about how RSV spreads.
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.
Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday. Call your health care professional if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms. Learn more about RSV symptoms.
Antiviral medication is not routinely recommended to fight infection. Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. However, RSV can cause severe illness in some people.
Take steps to relieve symptoms:
- Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.)
- Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
- Talk to your health care provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.