Treating RSV: What You Can Do and When to Seek Medical Help

Sick child with fever

Infection with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is practically a rite of passage for young children—most will get infected at least once by age 2. That’s why for parents of infants and toddlers need to know the basics of treating RSV.

Before Treating RSV, You Have to Spot the Symptoms

RSV often causes the common cold. As a result, if your child has an RSV infection, he or she may experience symptoms of a cold, including:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Slight headache
  • Sore throat

In addition to cold symptoms, some children may develop symptoms of bronchiolitis, a lower respiratory tract infection. Bronchiolitis can cause rapid breathing or wheezing.

When and Where to Seek Medical Attention for Your Children

Most of the time, RSV isn’t serious. Symptoms tend to be mild, and children recover after about a week. Still, even if your child has mild symptoms, you may want to consult your pediatrician or visit an urgent care center to determine whether the cause is RSV or something else.

You should definitely call your pediatrician if your child has symptoms of bronchiolitis or dehydration, a fever of 100.4 F or higher, or symptoms that haven’t improved in a week. If your child is abnormally drowsy or has trouble breathing, go to the emergency room. If his or her lips or fingernails are blue, that’s another reason to seek emergency care.

Treating RSV: Comfort, Fluids and Fever Relief

Most cases of RSV don’t need treatment from a medical professional. In fact, you can usually treat RSV at home.

While the virus runs its course, your job is to make your child comfortable and help manage symptoms. Steps you can take include:

  • Help clear out congestion. Use a saline nasal spray or cool-water humidifier to relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Keep fluids coming. Dehydration is a risk with RSV. To prevent it, ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Offer frequent, small amounts of fluid if he or she doesn’t feel like drinking a lot.
  • Use feverand pain-reducing medicines when appropriate. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help your child feel better. However, you should only give your child ibuprofen if he or she is at least 6 months old. Don’t give your child aspirin or cold medicines, which can be unsafe for young children.

Why Staying Home Is Part of Treating RSV

RSV spreads easily through a variety of methods. Consequently, if your child has RSV, it’s important to do your part to prevent additional infections.

Keep your child home from school and away from younger siblings and older adults until his or her symptoms are gone. In addition, if you get RSV from your child, you should stay home from work until you’re symptom-free.

If you’re in good health, there’s little reason to worry—RSV is usually mild in healthy adults. However, if you have a weakened immune system, your risk for severe RSV is higher, and it’s important to monitor your symptoms closely.

If your child has symptoms of a severe RSV infection, don’t wait to seek help. The team at the River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic Emergency Room is available to provide care 24/7.


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