REspiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Resources


​What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.

Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

How does RSV spread?

RSV can spread in a variety of different ways.

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You have direct contact with the virus like kissing the face of a child with RSV.
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands.

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days and may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of illness. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.



​What are the symptoms of RSV?

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days. Symptoms of RSV can include...

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing


I think I might have RSV... what do I do?

There is no specific treatment for RSV infection, though researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals (medicines that fight viruses).

You can also take steps to relieve symptoms through...

  • Manage your fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Drink enough fluids.
  • Talk to your health care provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medication. Some medicines contain ingredients not good for children.

GHC-SCW has plenty of options for you to get care virtually if you need it. Head to our GHC virtual visits page here for more information.

If at any time it becomes hard to breath or you experience life threatening or severe symptoms, call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room immediately.

What is the difference between RSV, the flu, and COVID-19?

With the symptoms of RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 being so similar it can be hard to understand what virus you have and kind of treatment you may need. Use the table here to understand your treatment and testing options.