RSV Respiratory Syncytial Virus RSV Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)


RSV is a common virus that mainly affects the respiratory tract and lungs, producing symptoms similar to a cold. It is highly contagious, and nearly all children have had it by age two. Adults are also at risk. Some self-care measures can help manage symptoms; however, RSV can be very serious in specific individuals, such as premature babies, infants, children, adults with heart or lung disease, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It may even require hospitalisation in extreme cases.


Infections of the lungs and respiratory tract are caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is prevalent enough that most children contract it before they turn two years old. Additionally, the respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus can infect adults.


For adults and children older than a year, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) symptoms are usually mild and similar to those of a cold. Simple self-care measures are generally sufficient to reduce any discomfort caused by the virus.


RSV can cause severe infection in specific individuals, such as infants aged 12 months or younger (including premature infants), older adults, those with heart or lung disease, and individuals with a weakened immune system (immunocompromised). It is important to note that RSV poses a greater risk to these vulnerable populations.


RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) Symptoms


Adults and older children may experience mild symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus, such as a stuffy nose, a dry cough, a low-grade fever, and a sore throat. However, severe infections can cause fever, cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and bluish skin colour. Infants may struggle to breathe, with their skin and muscles pulling inward. They may also cough, have shallow and rapid breaths, and experience poor feeding, unusual tiredness, and irritability. It's worth noting that RSV and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses, and some of their symptoms may overlap.


The symptoms of RSV typically appear around four to six days following exposure to the virus. Adults and older children may experience mild cold-like symptoms such as:


  • Low-grade fever

  • Headache

  • Dry cough

  • Sneezing

  • Sore throat


In Severe Cases Of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


An RSV infection can extend to the lower respiratory tract, leading to pneumonia or bronchiolitis. Indications and symptoms can impact:


  • Elevated body temperature (fever).

  • Intense coughing.

  • Wheezing is typically characterised by a high-pitched sound when exhaling.

  • Rapid or difficult breathing, the individual chooses an upright sitting position over lying down.

  • Bluish skin discolouration resulting from oxygen deprivation is known as cyanosis.



RSV has the most severe impact on infants. Severe RSV infection symptoms in infants include:


  • Rapid, shallow breathing.

  • You may be experiencing difficulty breathing if you notice your chest muscles and skin pulling inward during each breath.

  • Reduced appetite for feeding.

  • Unusual fatigue.


In most cases, children and adults typically recuperate within one to two weeks, although some may experience recurring wheezing. Severe or life-threatening infections necessitating hospitalisation may be observed in premature infants or individuals with chronic heart or lung conditions.


RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) And COVID-19

Both respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can cause similar symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. While these symptoms may be mild in children with COVID-19, adults may suffer from more severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing.


RSV can increase the chances of contracting COVID-19 and weaken the immune system in children and adults. These two infections can co-occur, exacerbating the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.


COVID-19 testing may be recommended if you are experiencing symptoms associated with a respiratory illness.


When To See A Doctor About RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


If someone is at risk of severe RSV infection or your child experiences difficulty breathing, a high fever, or a blue colour on their skin, especially in the nail beds and lips, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Causes Of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, infects the body when it enters through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Air droplets from coughs or sneezes can quickly spread the virus to those nearby. Direct contact, such as shaking hands, can also transmit the virus. For several hours, the virus can sometimes live on hard surfaces such as countertops and crib rails. When you touch an infected object, a virus can be transmitted through the mouth, nose, or eyes.


RSV infects the body when it enters through the eyes, nose, or mouth. It can spread easily through infected respiratory droplets and transmitted through the air. If someone with RSV coughs or sneezes near you, you or your child can get infected. Furthermore, direct contact, like shaking hands, is another way to transmit the virus to others.


Hard surfaces like countertops, crib rails, and toys can harbour the virus for several hours. If you touch a contaminated object and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you're at risk of contracting the virus.


An infected individual is highly contagious during the initial week after contracting the virus. However, individuals with compromised immune systems or infants may continue to spread the virus for up to four weeks, even after their symptoms have subsided.


Risk Factors Of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


Children attending childcare centres or with siblings in school are more susceptible to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. Premature babies, young children with heart or lung disease, those with weakened immune systems, and infants in crowded childcare settings face an increased risk of severe or life-threatening RSV infections. Furthermore, older adults and individuals with asthma or other lung disease, heart failure, HIV or AIDS, leukaemia, and certain transplanted organs are also at a higher risk of severe infection.


Most children will have contracted respiratory syncytial virus by age 2, and they can become infected with RSV multiple times. Children who attend childcare facilities or have siblings who attend school are more likely to be exposed and reinfected. Outbreaks of RSV typically occur during the fall to the end of spring, which is considered RSV season.


RSV infections can sometimes be life-threatening in certain people, such as:


  • Premature newborns or infants under six months of age.

  • Children with congenital heart conditions or persistent lung ailments.

  • Individuals with weakened immune systems due to illnesses like cancer or treatments such as chemotherapy.

  • Children with neuromuscular conditions like muscular dystrophy.

  • Adults with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.

  • Elderly individuals, particularly those aged 65 and older.


Complications Of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


The respiratory syncytial virus can cause the following complications:


  • If a person experiences a severe RSV infection, they may need to be hospitalised. This is so medical professionals can closely watch for breathing difficulties and administer IV fluids as needed.

  •  In Infants, inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia) or airways (bronchiolitis) is commonly caused by RSV. This can happen when the virus affects the lower respiratory tract, leading to severe lung inflammation. Those at higher risk of complications include young children, older adults, individuals with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic heart or lung disease.

  • Middle Ear Infection. Middle ear infection (otitis media) can occur when germs enter the area behind the eardrum. This is more common in infants and young children.

  • Severe RSV in children might be connected to an increased likelihood of developing asthma in the future.

  • Repeated Infections. Experiencing RSV once does not guarantee immunity from future infections. It is possible to contract the virus again within the same season. While subsequent infections may present as a common cold, they can still seriously threaten older adults and individuals with chronic heart or lung conditions.


Prevention Of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

Protective Medication For Babies And High-Risk Young Children


To safeguard infants from RSV, the CDC suggests using nirsevimab (Beyfortus), a medication that comes from a monoclonal antibody. It is administered as a one-time injection before or during RSV season. It is designed for infants under eight months born during or entering their first RSV season.


To protect children at high risk of severe RSV disease during their second RSV season, the CDC suggests administering nirsevimab to those between 8 and 19 months old. RSV season usually occurs from fall to spring.

Proteins produced in a lab are known as monoclonal antibodies. These proteins aid in combating harmful viruses that can lead to illness. Over time, their effectiveness diminishes.


Palivizumab, also known as Synagis, is a monoclonal antibody that can be administered via injection to safeguard specific infants and children under 24 months old who may face severe complications from RSV. These high-risk children within this age range include those with ongoing lung disease, certain heart defects, a weakened immune system, or were born prematurely.


At the beginning of the RSV season, the initial dose of palivizumab is administered, followed by monthly doses. It is not advisable to administer palivizumab to healthy children or adults.


It is important to note that the medications available are only meant to prevent RSV infection and not to treat it. If you are seeking more information about medication options to protect your child from RSV, it is recommended to consult with your child's doctor or healthcare team.


Lifestyle Habits


This infection can be prevented by following these lifestyle habits:


  • Wash Your Hands Often. Educating your kids about the significance of washing their hands is essential.

  • Avoid Exposure. Keep your mouth and nose covered when coughing or sneezing. For your baby's safety, it's essential to minimise their exposure to individuals who have colds or fevers.

  • Remember to keep your kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, and handles clean and free of germs. Dispose of used tissues in the trash immediately.

  • Keep Drinking Glasses Private From Others. Using either your glass or disposable cups when dealing with illness is recommended. Labelling each cup with the owner's name is a good idea.

  • Don't Smoke. As a result of exposure to tobacco smoke, infants are at greater risk of contracting RSV and experiencing more severe symptoms. It is essential not to smoke indoors or in a car if you are a smoker.

  • Wash Toys Regularly. It's essential to take precautions when your child or a playmate is ill.


You can conveniently consult with a doctor online through Mobi Doctor to receive prompt and effective treatment for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) infection. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms or concerns about RSV, our experienced medical professionals are available for online consultations. With easy access to expert advice and guidance, getting the care you need is easy, ensuring a swift response to RSV-related concerns. Don't hesitate to reach out to Mobi Doctor for professional medical support.



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