Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) is a common respiratory illness that usually causes cold-like symptoms. RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.


People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4-6 days after getting infected.

Symptoms include:

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

Symptoms typically come in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing issues. Most infections go away on their own in a week or two.

Learn more about RSV Symptoms


RSV can be spread when:

  • 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 (i.e. kissing the face of a child with RSV)
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it (i.e. doorknob)

Most people are usually contagious for 3-8 days, and may become contagious a day or two before showing symptoms. Typically, RSV circulation starts during the fall and peaks in the winter.

Learn more about RSV Transmission


Preventative measures to take to help prevent the spread of RSV include:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid close contact (i.e. kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups or utensils) with others
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces (i.e. doorknobs, mobile devices)

Learn more about RSV Prevention


Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. There is no specific treatment for RSV infection, though researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals (medicines that fight viruses).

Take steps to relieve symptoms

  • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.

Learn more about RSV Treatment

To keep current with all information regarding RSV, please visit the CDC's RSV webpage