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. 

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?

  • 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