Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Fact Checked

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was once a common and highly contagious respiratory virus. Generally, many children have been infected with RSV at least once before reaching 2 years old.

The virus is usually mistaken as the flu or common cold. Nevertheless, some individuals especially babies, young children and those with a weakened immune system might end up with a serious, long-lasting infection such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

Just like the influenza virus, one can acquire the respiratory syncytial virus via coughing, sneezing or sharing utensils. It can rapidly spread among children but also affect adults but it is usually less severe. The infection can develop several times throughout life.

What are the indications of respiratory syncytial virus infection?

The indications of RSV infection typically start to arise in 4-6 days after exposure. Recovery usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Common symptoms

  • Cough
  • Mild fever
  • Diminished appetite
    Respiratory syncytial virus
    The indications of RSV infection typically start to arise in 4-6 days after exposure.
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

Among young infants, the only indications include irritability, diminished level of activity and breathing issues.

Risk factors

Anyone can acquire the respiratory syncytial virus. Among adults, the virus is not usually serious. Nevertheless, it can be severe among infants, young children and other high-risk groups specifically:

  • Infants and children who were prematurely born
  • Infants and children suffering from chronic heart or lung conditions
  • Infants attending crowded day care facilities
  • Children or adults with weakened immune systems due to treatments or ailments
  • Adults or elderly with chronic heart or lung ailments


It is important to note that the treatment is aimed on managing the symptoms. For mild cases, it is vital to increase the intake of fluids, adequate rest and provide acetaminophen to lower the fever.

If the individual develops pneumonia or other lung infections, treatment is required to help them breathe. Cases that require hospitalization include children below 6 months of age. In severe cases, these infants might require oxygen therapy, suctioning of mucus or insertion of breathing tubes.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on respiratory syncytial virus is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage infections caused by the respiratory syncytial virus by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.