Most people, including infants, develop only mild symptoms similar to that of a common cold but for some, RSV can be severe and even life-threatening.
How RSV Is Treated
Mild RSV infections will go away in a week or two without treatment. You can use over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers to manage your symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are not sure if an over-the-counter product is safe to give to your child. Your doctor may also suggest nasal saline drops or suctioning to clear a stuffy nose. Supportive care such as staying hydrated and comfortable is also helpful.
In severe cases, most commonly for infants younger than 6 months of age and older adults, hospitalization may be needed. The hospital will use intravenous (IV) fluids to aid in hydration, and a breathing machine or humidified oxygen to help your body receive the oxygen it needs. In most cases, hospitalization will only last a few days.
RSV is highly contagious. Each year, an estimated 2.1 million outpatient visits occur in children younger than five years of age due to RSV infection. There are some steps you should take to prevent its spread. The most effective means of protection are some of the simplest, such as:
- Avoiding close contact with infected people
- Avoiding sharing cups, bottles or toys that may have been contaminated with the virus since the virus can live on surfaces for several hours
- Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water after coming into contact with an infected person
Researchers are working to develop a vaccine, but currently, there is nothing available for public use. In some situations, high-risk infants may be prescribed monthly injections of palivizumab to help prevent severe RSV.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.
Page last updated: November 17, 2022