St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

    RSV; Palivizumab; Respiratory syncytial virus immune globulin

    Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common virus that leads to mild, cold-like symptoms in adults and older healthy children. It can be more serious in young babies, especially those in certain high-risk groups.

    Causes

    RSV is the most common germ that causes lung and airway infections in infants and young children. Most infants have had this infection by age 2. Outbreaks of RSV infections most often begin in the fall and run into the spring.

    The infection can occur in people of all ages. The virus spreads through tiny droplets that go into the air when a sick person blows their nose, coughs, or sneezes.

    You can catch RSV if:

    • A person with RSV sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you
    • You touch, kiss, or shake hands with someone who is infected by the virus
    • You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob.

    RSV often spreads very rapidly in crowded households and day care centers. The virus can live for a half an hour or more on hands. The virus can also live for up to 5 hours on countertops and for several hours on used tissues.

    The following increase the risk for RSV:

    • Attending day care
    • Being near tobacco smoke
    • Having school-aged brothers or sisters
    • Living in crowded conditions

    Symptoms

    Symptoms vary and differ with age. They usually appear 4 - 6 days after coming in contact with the virus.

    Older children usually have only mild, cold-like symptoms, such as cough, stuffy nose, or low-grade fever.

    Infants under age 1 may have more severe symptoms and often have the most trouble breathing.

    In general, RSV symptoms include:

    • Bluish skin color due to a lack of oxygen (cyanosis)
    • Breathing difficulty or labored breathing
    • Cough
    • Croupy cough (often described as a "seal bark" cough)
    • Fever
    • Nasal flaring
    • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
    • Shortness of breath
    • Stuffy nose
    • Wheezing

    Exams and Tests

    Many hospitals and clinics can rapidly test for RSV using a sample of fluid taken from the nose with a cotton swab.

    Treatment

    Antibiotics do not treat RSV.

    Mild infections go away without treatment.

    Infants and children with a severe RSV infection may be admitted to the hospital . Treatment will include:

    • Oxygen
    • Moist (humidified) air
    • Fluids through a vein (by IV)

    A breathing machine (ventilator) may be needed.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Rarely, RSV infection can cause death in infants. However, this is unlikely if the child is seen by a health care provider in the early stages of the disease .

    More severe RSV disease may occur in the following infants:

    • Premature infants
    • Infants with chronic lung disease
    • Infants whose immune system does not work well
    • Infants with certain forms of heart disease

    Possible Complications

    In young children, RSV can cause:

    • Bronchiolitis
    • Croup
    • Ear infections
    • Lung failure
    • Pneumonia

    Children who have had RSV bronchiolitis may be more likely to develop asthma.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if breathing difficulties or other symptoms of this disorder appear. Any breathing difficulties in an infant are an emergency. Seek medical attention right away.

    Prevention

    A simple way to help prevent RSV infection is to wash your hands often, especially before touching your baby. It is important to make certain that other people, especially caregivers, take steps to avoid giving RSV to your baby.

    The following simple steps can help protect your baby from getting sick:

    • Insist that others wash their hands with warm water and soap before touching your baby.
    • Have others avoid contact with the baby if they have a cold or fever. If necessary, have them wear a mask.
    • Be aware that kissing the baby can spread RSV infection.
    • Try to keep young children away from your baby. RSV is very common among young children and easily spreads from child to child.
    • Do not smoke inside your house, car, or anywhere near your baby. Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of RSV illness.

    Parents of high-risk young infants should avoid crowds during outbreaks of RSV. Moderate-to-large outbreaks are often reported in the local news and newspapers to provide parents with an opportunity to avoid exposure.

    The drug Synagis (palivizumab) is approved for the prevention of RSV disease in children younger than 24 months who are at high risk for serious RSV disease. Ask your doctor if your child should receive this medicine.

    References

    Committee on Infectious Diseases. Modified recommendations for use of palivizumab for prevention of respiratory syncytial virus infections. Pediatrics. 2009;124:1694-1701.

    Respiratory Syncytial Virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap158.

    Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Evidence based clinical practice guideline for medical management of bronchiolitis in infants less than 1 year of age presenting with a first time episode. Cincinnati (OH): Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; 2006 May. 13 p.

    Crowe JE Jr. Respiratory syncytial virus. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 252.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Bronchiolitis

      illustration

      • Bronchiolitis

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

            Review Date: 2/21/2013

            Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
            adam.com

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            History
            Mission
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs
            Assessment

            Newsroom
            Services
            Brain & Spine
            Cancer
            Heart
            Maternity
            Orthopedics
            Pulmonary
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            mystlukes
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Health Risk Assessments
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Volunteer
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            Careers
            Careers
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile