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Managing and Preventing RSV

Managing RSV

RSV is an infection from which otherwise healthy patients are expected to fully recover. However, it can be severe, life threatening, or even fatal among the sickest patients.

What to Expect

It takes between 2 and 8 days from the time of exposure to the time the person gets sick. Then the illness lasts about 3 to 7 days. The recovery time varies, depending on the severity of the illness and the overall health of the patient.

People are contagious for about 3 to 8 days. However, some people (such as those with weakened immune systems) may be contagious for several weeks.

Long-term Effects

RSV infection during the first 6 months (and especially the first 3 months) of life may lead to wheezing and asthma later in life. The exact reason why is not known, but there may be a genetic predisposition for it.

Preventing RSV

RSV is highly contagious. It is extremely important to prevent its spread to others. The most effective means of protection are some of the simplest, such as:

  • Avoiding close contact (eg, kissing) with infected people
  • Avoiding sharing cups, bottles, or toys that may have been contaminated with the virus (it can live on surfaces for several hours)
  • Thorough hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds after coming into contact with an infected person

High-risk patients can receive monthly injections with the drug palivizumab that prevents the development of severe RSV disease, but it has no effect after the disease has started.

Finding Support

The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.

Learn more about RSV at:

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Page Last Updated: July 19, 2019

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