RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

What is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that spreads by inhaling or having contact with virus-containing droplets (typically through the mouth, nose, or eyes) produced by a person with RSV infection when talking, coughing, and sneezing. While most people who get RSV will only have cold symptoms, it may be more severe in infants and young children, as well as older adults.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Symptoms can include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or coughing, and can also include fever, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing or wheezing. RSV causes respiratory tract illness in people of all ages, but infants, young children, and older adults are at greater risk of severe illness from RSV. RSV is typically more common in the late fall, winter, and early spring. 

Can I get a RSV vaccine?

  • Infants and young children: Monoclonal antibody products, which are not vaccines but are given by injection, are CDC-approved and soon to be available to protect infants and young children from severe RSV. 
  • Older adults: Vaccines are CDC-approved and currently available to protect older adults from severe RSV. 
  • Pregnant people: This fall, pregnant people will be able to receive an immunization to protect themselves and their newborn(s) against severe respiratory illness and hospitalization. 

All of these RSV immunizations should be available by October 2023, or sooner. Both Pfizer and GSK will be distributing updated doses for their respective age groups and priority populations.

What are the latest RSV vaccination reccomendations?

Ideally, RSV immunizations should be received before or during the early fall, between September and October. This is to ensure the immune system has time to prepare for possible exposure before possible transmission peaks during the late fall and winter months.

  • Pediatric guidance: Most infants younger than 8 months, born during or entering their first RSV season, should receive one dose of the Sanofi and AstraZeneca monoclonal antibody treatment, nirsevimab (Beyfortus), as soon as possible. Young children aged 8–19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease and entering their second RSV season are also recommended to receive one dose of nirsevimab.
  • Older adult guidance: Adults ages 60 and older can receive their Abrysvo (Pfizer) or Arexvy (GSK) vaccine dose after speaking with their healthcare provider about personal health risks.

Ask your health care provider for additional guidance and recommendations.

When should I go to the hospital?

Signs that an individual may need to go to the hospital include high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, not being able to eat or drink. Remember, RSV may be more severe in infants, young children and older adults. If an individual is struggling to breathe, call 911.

If you are seeking non-emergency care or assistance, please call your primary care provider or the Children's Hospital Colorado ParentSmart Healthline™ at 720-777-0123, to receive free healthcare advice from registered, experienced pediatric nurses, available 24/7.  

What can schools and child care centers do to prevent the spread of RSV?

Child care centers and schools can play an active role in preventing the spread through increased hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and areas, and strict adherence to and implementing their illness policies.

What can families and caregivers do to prevent the spread of RSV?

  • Ask your doctor if vaccination is right for you or your child.
  • Stay home when you are sick, including not visiting or interacting with people who may be at higher risk, including older adults, young children, and infants.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encourage children to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or upper arm sleeve when they cough or sneeze, throw away the tissue after they use it, and clean hands as instructed above.
  • Clean potentially contaminated surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, handrails, etc. 
  • Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, and touching your face with unwashed hands. 
  • If your child is demonstrating early signs of respiratory distress, consider taking them to their primary care doctor for evaluation.

Other steps

RSV is not the only virus that can make you or your child sick. Vaccines are an important step to protect yourself and your children from respiratory illness. Don't forget to:

Resources for Schools and Child Care Settings