Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 2 Nov 2015 - 12:57.

respiratory-difficultyRespiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Although it can infect adults, mostly premature infants and children under the age of two are affected with this virus. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly 25 to 40 percent of children exposed to RSV virus for the first time will create symptoms of pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

RSV enters your body through your eyes, nose or mouth or when infected people cough or sneeze, secretions from their respiratory tract carrying the virus are out into the air spreading the virus. Some risk factors include:

  • Immunodeficiency in children and adults
  • The virus enduring on surfaces such as tabletops, hands and clothing, makes it easy for the virus to be transferred from person to person.
  • Adults who are impacted by medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Symptoms of RSV infection in infants and children can usually be noticed in 2-8 days’ time of being infected, and recuperate in 10-15 days period. Symptoms of RSV include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever, mild headache
  • Sore throat
  • Thick discharge from the nose
  • Irritability
  • Decreased activity and rapid breathing in infants
  • Cyanosis (A bluish discoloration of the skin)

Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma, middle ear infection are all complicated with RSV. Occasional return of RSV infection after an occurrence of the first infection is common. However, hospitalization is required only in critical cases so that doctors can track any breathing problems that a patient may suffer.

When to see a doctor?
If the patient is experiencing breathing difficulty, running high temperature, or turns blue in the lips and nail beds, seek medical advice immediately, as this could be an indication of severe condition.


Different types of test are available for diagnosis of RSV, some of them are:

  • Antigen detection test in younger children
  • Medical history and physical exam may be done to evaluate the symptoms
  • A chest X-ray
  • Blood test like complete blood count or chemistry screening
  • Valuation of nasal secretions

In cases of moderate RSV, appropriate measures may taken to decrease the symptoms of RSV such as:

  • Bulb suction
  • Cool mist humidifiers
  • Nasal saline
  • Increased intake of fluid
  • Use of acetaminophen for fevers


ReferenceCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

RSV can be best prevented in following ways:

  • In order to avoid RSV, always wash your hands before coming into contact with your child
  • Infants who are at a greater risk of catching RSV should go for monthly RSV antibody injections- Palivizumab.
  • Keep your children’s toys, door knobs and tables clean.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.