RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms in children and adults. However, it can be serious for infants and older adults. RSV affects the lungs and respiratory tract and can cause a severe infection such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. 


RSV spreads when:

  • an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • the virus droplets from a cough or sneeze gets in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • you touch a surface with the virus on it and then touch your face
  • you have direct contact with the virus, such as kissing the face of a child infected with RSV


People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within four to six days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

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.


Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. Some vaccines have been developed for treatment for RSV infection in infants and toddlers and for those 60 and older. Researchers are working to develop additional vaccines and antivirals (medicines that fight viruses).

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 healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.