RSV: What you need to know

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) is a very common virus that causes infection of the nose, throat and lungs.

By the time most children reach the age of 2, they have already been infected with RSV at least once. However this year, many of those children may be infected with RSV for the first time ever since many of the interventions to prevent the spread of COVID have also led to the prevention of RSV circulation.

Most cases of RSV in otherwise healthy adults and older children lead to mild cold-like symptoms. But younger children and those with other risk factors are more likely to develop a lung infection and have breathing problems requiring medical intervention. Remember, PhysicianOne is here 24/7 (connect virtually with a provider now) to help you sort through the symptoms and determine next steps including if testing is necessary.

How is RSV contracted?

RSV can be spread by contact with saliva and mucous from a sick child’s nose or mouth, or by objects the child has touched.  Usually people begin to show symptoms within 4-6 days after getting infected.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Symptoms usually include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

In very young infants, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased feeding and breathing difficulty.

How is it diagnosed?

RSV is diagnosed by a healthcare provider usually from the appearance of typical symptoms and physical examination. An RSV test can be done by swabbing the nasal passage, but it is not typically needed.

How is it treated?

Most cases of RSV resolve on their own within a week or two. We don’t have any vaccines to prevent RSV or any medications specifically targeted to treat it. The treatment therefore is aimed at helping symptoms including maintaining hydration, breathing and treating fevers. In more severe cases or in the very young sometimes hospitalization is needed due to the need for oxygen, breathing support or for IV fluids.

Signs to watch for in young children

If your young child has the above symptoms, it is very important to get them evaluated right away. While the initial symptoms are often mild, in high risk patients the symptoms can progress quickly. If your child has trouble eating or drinking, gets tired while feeding or becomes sluggish, you should seek immediate medical care.

PhysicianOne Urgent Care can help

From infants to seniors our medical teams are here to help with RSV and other respiratory viruses. If someone in your household is suffering from respiratory symptoms don’t wait for it to progress. Virtual Care is available 24/7, if you have questions or concerns in the middle of the night get peace of mind and a plan of action with a quick telehealth consult. Our in-center teams are available 365 days per year for walk-in care, or schedule your visit in advance online at

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