Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
- More Information
At Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, we know how concerning it can be when your child is facing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). We’ve gathered important information for families below and are here to offer expert-level care if your child needs clinical support.
What is RSV?
RSV is a common respiratory virus that affects the lungs and airways.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all children will become infected with RSV by the time they’re 2 years old, with a majority only experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms.
While there is no vaccine for RSV, there are a few steps you and your family members can take to prevent the children in your life from getting it:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitizer)
- Try not to touch your face
- Avoid close contact, like kissing and sharing cups and utensils, with people who are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often, including toys, doorknobs, counter tops and electronics
- Stay home when you aren’t feeling well
Mild RSV symptoms in children
Mild symptoms your child may experience include:
- Congested or runny nose
- Decreased appetite
- Dry cough
- Low-grade fever
- Mild irritability or decreased activity (specifically in infants)
- Sore throat
What to do if your child has RSV
Most children will completely recover from RSV within a week or two with plenty of rest and fluids.
At home, you can take the following steps to improve your child’s symptoms:
- For infants, perform nasal suctioning with saline before and after naps and prior to feeding. Watch the following video for step-by-step instructions from a pediatric emergency medicine physician:
- Give appropriate over-the-counter medications recommended by your child’s pediatrician
However, if your child’s mild symptoms aren’t getting better or are getting worse over time, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician or take them to an ExpressCARE or Children's ExpressCARE location.
When it comes to fever, call your pediatrician if your child is:
- 3 months old or younger and has a fever of 100.4°F or higher for any length of time
- Between 4 months and 2 years old and has a fever of 100.4°F or higher for more than a day
- 2 years old or older and has a fever of 100.4°F or higher for more than three days
Infants with a severe case of RSV may have trouble feeding or produce fewer wet diapers than usual (which is a sign of dehydration). If your infant is sick and experiencing either of these symptoms, you should contact their pediatrician as soon as possible for guidance.
Serious RSV symptoms that require emergency care
If your child experiences any of the following symptoms, they should be seen at an emergency room (like the Children’s Hospital’s Breidegam Family Children’s ER, which is the region’s only 24/7 emergency room specifically for kids) as soon as possible:
- Severe drowsiness or lack of alertness
- Severe cough
- Skin, lips or fingernails that appear blue
- Trouble breathing
- Struggling for each breath or being short of breath
- Tight breathing that makes it difficult to speak or cry
- Retractions (when the ribs pull in with each breath)
- Noisy breathing (such as wheezing)
- Breathing much faster than normal
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