Preventing RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that can infect the lungs and breathing passages. RSV also can affect the mouth, nose and throat. Most children will have RSV by the time they are two years old. It can cause more severe illnesses in infants. You can get RSV at any time of your life, but it generally affects adults as nothing more than a cold.

Researchers are working to develop RSV vaccines, but nothing is available yet.  You can take steps to help prevent the spread of RSV.

If you have cold-like symptoms:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow
  • Wash your hands frequently and correctly (with soap and water for 15–20 seconds)
  • Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others
  • Do not kiss others
  • Use a disinfectant to clean hard surfaces that many people touch and where germs can live (such as doorknobs, counters, telephones, remote controls, keyboards, etc.).

If you have a child or care for a child who is at high risk for developing severe disease if infected with RSV, take special care to try to protect them from the spread of RSV.  Children most at risk include premature infants, children under age two with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems.  

  • Make sure people wash their hands before touching your baby.
  • Keep your baby out of crowds.
  • Keep your baby away from people with cold-like symptoms. If this is not possible, carefully follow the prevention steps mentioned above. People with cold-like symptoms should wash their hands before interacting with children at high risk.
  • When possible, limit the time that your high-risk baby spends in child-care centers or other potentially contagious settings during the RSV season.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether or not your baby should be given a drug called palivizumab (say "pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb") during the RSV season. prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk. This drug can help prevent RSV infection, but it cannot help cure or treat children who already have serious RSV disease.

View in-depth resources for RSV