What is RSV?
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus. It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.
Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. For example, in young children RSV can cause bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) or pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
What are the symptoms of RSV?
People who have RSV usually show symptoms within four to six days. Symptoms of RSV can include:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
If it becomes hard to breathe or you experience life-threatening or severe symptoms, call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room.
What can you do if you think you have RSV?
There is no specific treatment for RSV infection. You can take steps to relieve symptoms through…
- Managing your fever and pain with over-the-counter medicine, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Talk to your child’s primary care provider before giving your child any medication. Some cold medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.
- Drinking enough fluids.
- Seeing your provider or another health care provider through our virtual care options. Head to our GHC-SCW virtual visits page for more information.
What You Need to Know About RSV
RSV can spread in a variety of different ways.
- An infected person coughs or sneezes and 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 infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days. They may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of their illness. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as four weeks.
The symptoms of RSV, the flu and COVID-19 are similar so it can be hard to figure out what virus you have and what kind of treatment you may need. Use the table here to understand your treatment and testing options.