Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Kids: Reasons & Treatment

RSV in Children – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Children are more prone to respiratory tract infections and irritations. The illness can be caused by various bacteria or viruses. While some are mild infections like the common cold, some are more severe like Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV where the child may be hospitalized. Proper care should be provided to prevent any such type of diseases while gathering information regarding the diseases can help in preventing as well as knowing when to contact the doctor.

What Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?

RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus is a virus disease that infects the lungs or the respiratory tracts of an individual. The virus is more common in children under 2 years of age and can affect adults also. It is the most common and contagious disease that is most likely to affect children of small age. More likely, RSV is a common disease that causes the common cold but in some small cases, it might cause serious infections like pneumonia, RSV, and bronchiolitis.

Is It Contagious?

The RSV is a virus that can easily spread through the modes of air. Therefore, it is a contagious disease. It spreads through the air from sneezing or coughing, or can also transfer through direct contact like touching.

Causes and Risk Factors

A child can contact RSV when it comes in contact with an infected person’s fluid from the nose or mouth through coughing and sneezing. It can also happen when the child touches some contaminated area and takes it in contact with his/her mouth, eyes, or nose. It may also happen when the child inhales some contaminated air droplets.

Most of the children are affected by RSV within 2 years of age. The chances of RSV in babies and toddlers are more common. They can also get infected with this more than once. While the children are most likely to have mild symptoms from this and can get easily cure, in some cases, RSV in newborns can badly affect the health condition leading to some serious damages. The following are more at risk:

  • When they are likely surrounded by people infected with RSV
  • Children with crowded living conditions
  • Children who have a family history of Asthma
  • Infants, especially premature babies, or under 6-month babies
  • Babies having birth weight less than 2500 gms
  • Children with low immunity
  • Children who are suffering from heart diseases or chronic lung diseases
  • Older people who are more than 65 years of age
  • Children who are suffering from any kind of disease from birth

Signs of RSV in Children

RSV symptoms start showing about 2-6 days after the exposure to the virus. In the early phase, young children might develop some symptoms like colds and coughs. While it may affect deeply to the children within 2 years of age. The illness may move to the lungs and cause cough and sneeze which might change to respiratory diseases. The common symptoms of RSV in kids are:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble in swallowing
  • Poor feeding
  • Faster breathing than usual
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache

In more severe cases, the symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bluish color of the skin near the lips
  • Irritability in Lungs
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Wheezing
  • Stopping breathing

While the children may recover in one or two weeks, if the symptoms are persistent, the child may have to be consulted with the doctor once for the diagnosis.

How Is It Diagnosed?

A doctor might ask for your child’s symptoms and health history to diagnose if the child is suffering from Respiratory Syncytial Virus. They might do some physical examination and check their medical history to know the severity of the diseases. The doctor can also do some tests if the symptoms are severe like:

  • Listening to the child’s breathing through a stethoscope.
  • Taking urine or blood samples for tests to check for bacteria, viruses, or any other germs.
  • Taking an x-ray to check for lung inflammations or signs of pneumonia.
  • Taking some skin out of a child’s mouth or nose to check for signs of the virus.
  • The doctor might also do a Nasal Swab test, a painless test that helps in checking for the virus in the fluids from the nose.

RSV Treatments

RSV Treatments

If the symptom is severe, it is advisable to consult a doctor for the proper diagnosis. When the doctor diagnoses the child, it prescribes the medication and treatment according to the severity of the disease. The treatment may include-

1. Oxygen

Oxygen is provided to the child through masks or an oxygen tent to help them with breathing.

2. More Fluids

More fluids are being passed onto the child’s body intravenous (IV) line to keep the body hydrated.

3. Antivirals

Antiviral medications are being provided to children with severe medical conditions.

4. Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation is the treatment for RSV in infants where they are kept in a machine to help them with the process of breathing.

5. Tube Feeding

If the baby is having trouble eating and sucking the food, liquid food is passed through a thin tube entered into the baby’s stomach through the nose.

6. Bronchodilator Medicines

They might be given aerosol mist through an inhaler or mask to open the child’s airways.

The treatment should be provided after taking all the precautions and consulting for all the side-effects.

Home Remedies to Cure RSV in Your Child

Since RSV is a virus, there are not many treatments to cure it. Although some cough and cold are bacterial infections and can be cured with antibiotics, RSV is not affected by the vaccines and thus proper treatment should be followed to cure it.

You can provide some treatments at home to your child:

1. Hydration

Keeping the baby hydrated is the most important thing. Try giving more and more amount of liquid intake to the baby to avoid dehydration in his/her body.

2. Steaming

Keeping the child in a mild steaming room or using a cool-mist humidifier can help in clearing the mucus and helping the child to breathe easily by clearing the air passage.

3. Medication

You can also give your child a dose of Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is anon-aspirin that helps in treating mild fever or discomfort. However, it is suggested to consult a doctor before giving the medicine if he/she has not taken the medicine yet.

4. Comfort

Making the child as comfortable as possible will put them at ease. Maintaining an upright position will also help.

5. Bulb Suction

Use a nasal aspirator or a bulb suction to remove the fluids from the nose of your child so that they will be able to breathe easily.

If any symptoms persist, it is better to contact the doctor for treatment as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus

There are some steps that can be taken to prevent RSV like:

  • Avoid going to over-crowded places with your baby.
  • Keep your baby away from the members having a cold.
  • Wash your hands often especially before touching the baby to avoid the infection.
  • Keep your baby away from smoke areas or do not let anyone smoke near the baby.
  • Clean and disinfect the hard surfaces as well as the baby’s toys.

Contact your doctor and know if the baby is at high risk for catching the infection, and get the baby the monthly shot of medication, palivizumab that helps in protecting the baby from serious complications of RSV.

When to See a Doctor

The doctor should be consulted if the baby is:

  • Wheezing sounds while breathing
  • Unusually inactive
  • Coughing with yellow or green colored mucus
  • Refusing to intake milk
  • Having trouble breathing

If your baby is showing any of these signs, contact your pediatrician immediately.


Since breathing infection can be a mild and bacterial infection, we tend to ignore it sometimes. But it is important to notice every single symptom of the children and their behavior to understand if they are facing any issues on breathing and to know the severity of the issue. Since RSV can range from mild to severe, utmost care should be taken to prevent the child from catching it. If your baby is a premature baby, then more care should be taken as RSV in preemies can be dangerous. RSV like any other disease can be fatal if we ignore it. But it can be defeated with a little more care and little more precautions.

The babies under 1 year of age are to be taken utmost care of. They are most likely to catch the infections easily. Since, the infections, whether mild or severe can be bad for the children. Proper care and nutrition are very essential to maintain their growth as well as keep their immunity strong to fight the diseases. A well-sanitized and clean environment and healthy nutrition can help the baby stay away from these infections and keep them healthy. A healthy child is a happy child.

Also Read:

Herpangina in Kids
Mesenteric Adenitis in Kids
Hyperlexia in Kids

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