RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

Keeping our families & children safe: RSV in the community

Our community currently has very high levels of viral respiratory disease, and young children are being hit hard by RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza. These viruses come every winter, but the surge is happening early this year and involving many more children than usual. As a result, primary clinics, urgent care sites, emergency rooms and hospitals are all extremely busy. 

We want to help you stay out of clinics or emergency rooms if you do not need to be there. But we also want to be sure you recognize when your child needs medical care. 

What is RSV?

RSV is one of the many viruses that cause respiratory illnesses of the nose, throat, and lungs. For most children and adults, RSV causes a cold. Cold symptoms can usually be managed at home and generally last 7-10 days (about 1 and a half weeks). These include:   

  • Fever (temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher)
  • Cough (dry or wet sounding)
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fussiness
  • Poor feeding

Take steps to treat symptoms and avoid the hospital and urgent care

You do not need to have your child tested or see a doctor for cold symptoms.

While there is no specific medicine for RSV, you can treat symptoms at home if your child is uncomfortable. Early at-home treatment can help you avoid taking your child to the hospital or urgent care. Follow your doctor's recommendations and instructions on all over-the-counter medicines.

  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat fever or pain, such as a sore throat.
  • Saline nasal drops can ease congestion. Follow instructions on the product.
  • Keep the room warm but not overheated.
  • If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.
  • Keep your baby’s nose clear of mucous.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Offer warm fluids, such as soup, which may help loosen thickened mucous.
  • Continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your infant as you would normally.
  • Feeding infants in smaller amounts and more frequently will allow them to catch their breath.
  • Avoid smoking near children as second-hand smoke can make symptoms worse. 

Severe RSV symptoms

Some children experience RSV infections that are more severe. For example, very young babies, children born prematurely, and those with a chronic medical condition (such as a heart defect or asthma) are at increased risk of severe disease. But even healthy children can become sick when RSV moves down into the lungs to cause bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

Children with severe RSV have cold symptoms but also signs of respiratory distress (VIDEO):

  • Fast breathing
  • Pauses in their breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils and head bobbing with breathing
  • Rhythmic grunting during breathing
  • Belly breathing, tugging between the ribs and/or the lower neck
  • Wheezing
  • Blue coloration of lips, mouth, or skin

If your child is having severe difficulty breathing, call 911.

When to get help for severe RSV

You know your child best. If you are concerned that this is more than a cold, please seek help. We always advise you to call your child’s primary care provider or seek urgent care if your child:

  • Is less than 8 weeks (about 2 months) old and has a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Has a sustained fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, no matter their age.
  • Is lethargic or hard to arouse.
  • Has any signs of respiratory distress (listed above).
  • Has signs of dehydration (no tears, dark urine, very dry mouth).
  • Has RSV symptoms along with a chronic health condition, such as a heart defect or lung disease.

RSV prevention recommendations

There are things you can do to help keep your children and family safe, even when RSV and influenza are moving through the community:

  • Stay home from daycare, school, or work when sick.
  • Break out those masks! Consider wearing masks in public or at gatherings with people who don’t live with you.
  • Ask family and friends not to visit your home or attend gatherings when they are sick.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizers often.
  • Use tissues or the crook of your elbow to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Throw tissues away in a covered trash bin right after use.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as binkies, utensils, toothbrushes, towels, and toys.
  • Clean surfaces often, including toys, doorknobs, phones, and keyboards.
  • Get vaccinated. Influenza and COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone 6 months of age and older.


Where can I get tested for RSV?

While you can get an RSV test at an urgent care clinic, we strongly recommend scheduling an appointment with your primary care team first. Testing for RSV is not always necessary and often will not change the way in which your child is treated.

Am I able to bring my child into the clinic if they’ve recently had (or currently have) RSV?

You can bring in a child if they have RSV. The child, you and other family members who come to the clinic must be masked.

Can I get the flu shot if I have (or have recently had) RSV?

You can receive the flu shot and other vaccines if you currently or recently have had RSV. Unless you are currently experiencing severe symptoms, being mildly ill will not affect the flu shot’s effectiveness. Flu shots are strongly recommended for anyone 6 months and older. Please get in touch with your primary care team for more information.

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