Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Children – What should you know?

respiratory syncytial virus-Sriramakrishnahospital

Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV is a common viral infection that primarily affects children, especially infants and toddlers. It can lead to a range of respiratory illnesses, from mild cold-like symptoms to severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia. 

Usually in most children respiratory syncytial virus only causes common cold and tends to fade away. Only in a few children RSV can cause life-threatening infections. 

What is meant by respiratory syncytial virus?

Respiratory syncytial virus is a contagious virus that primarily targets the respiratory system. It belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family and is a leading cause of respiratory infections in children. respiratory syncytial virus can affect individuals of all ages but is most concerning in infants and young children due to potential for severe respiratory problems in newborns and children. 

What are the common symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus in children?

Generally the signs and symptoms of RSV in children can vary in different children and can highly depend on the severity. Few common symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus include:

  • Fever 
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing
  • Irritability 
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Loss of appetite

It’s important to note that RSV symptoms can resemble those of the common cold or other respiratory infections, making it challenging to distinguish without accurate diagnosis. 

When do the symptoms of RSV show?

It may take two to eight days after RSV exposure for symptoms to appear. The illness typically lasts for the following three to seven days. The majority of kids and adults heal completely in one to two weeks. As the symptoms show, immediately reach out to the best pulmonology hospital in Coimbatore to seek immediate medical help.

What are the common causes of respiratory syncytial virus?

Close contact with an infected individual who has coughing or sneezing fluids on them, as well as touching infected toys or doorknobs, can spread RSV from one person to another.

From the time of exposure, it takes two to eight days for someone to get sick. Those who are affected are most contagious from days three to seven of the illness’ usual duration.

How does RSV infection spread?

Understanding how respiratory syncytial virus spreads is crucial in preventing its transmission. RSV is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouth and nose of nearby people, potentially leading to infection. 

Additionally, respiratory syncytial virus can survive on surfaces for several hours, making contact with contaminated surfaces another mode of transmission. When children touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth they can become infected. 

Is respiratory syncytial virus contagious?

RSV is a highly contagious disease. It can spread highly during the first few weeks of disease development. Generally children or babies with weak immune systems can get the infection much quicker than other healthy children. As the child or adult begins to show symptoms it is important to diagnose RSV to avoid disease progression.

Is respiratory syncytial virus a threat to children?

While respiratory syncytial virus often results in mild symptoms similar to cold, it can pose a significant risk to certain groups of children. Especially those with weakened immune systems. In severe cases, respiratory syncytial virus can lead to bronchiolitis, a condition where the small airways in the lungs become inflamed and narrowed. This can cause serious respiratory distress and may require hospitalization.

Infants born prematurely, those with heart or  lung conditions, and children with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of severe respiratory syncytial virus infections. It’s essential for parents and caregivers to be vigilant and seek medical attention promptly if a child exhibits severe symptoms.

Who is at high risk of respiratory syncytial virus?

By the time they turn two, almost all children have respiratory syncytial virus. This virus often only produces cold-like symptoms. The illness, however, can be harmful for young infants and some adults.

Infants and adults are more likely to get severe respiratory syncytial virus than:

  • Premature infants
  • Infants with various heart and lung conditions
  • Adults with congenital heart disorders
  • Old age 
  • Children and adults with weak immune system 

What are the tips to prevent RSV in children?

Preventing RSV transmission is a top priority, especially during the RSV season, which typically occurs in the fall and winter months. Here are some key preventive measures:

Frequent handwashing:

Encourage regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.

Avoid Close Contact: 

Minimize close contact with individuals who have symptoms of respiratory illness, including RSV. This is particularly important for infants.

Keep Shared Surfaces Clean: 

Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, toys, and countertops.

Limit Exposure: 

If your child is at high risk for severe respiratory syncytial virus infection, consider limiting their exposure to crowded places during respiratory syncytial virus season.

When to seek medical help for respiratory syncytial virus in children?

It’s crucial to recognize when to seek medical attention for a child with RSV symptoms. If your child exhibits any of the following signs, consult a healthcare provider promptly:

Rapid Breathing: 

Infants and young children with respiratory syncytial virus may experience rapid, shallow breathing, which is a sign of respiratory distress. RSV in newborns can show visible signs that indicate immediate help.

High Fever: 

A persistent high fever may indicate a severe respiratory syncytial virus infection.

Blue Lips or Nails: 

This is a sign of inadequate oxygen levels and requires immediate medical attention.


If your child appears lethargic, has sunken eyes, or is not producing tears or urine, they may be dehydrated, which can accompany severe RSV cases.

Severe Cough: 

A persistent, severe cough that interferes with your child’s ability to breathe should not be ignored.

Refusal to Eat: 

If your child is not feeding well due to breathing difficulties or discomfort, consult a healthcare provider.

Worsening Symptoms: 

If your child’s symptoms worsen over time rather than improving, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation.

Can you get RSV twice in a lifetime?

RSV can strike more than once in a person’s life, and even more than once in a single RSV season. Infections that recur frequently have a milder impact than initial infections. RSV infection, however, may be more harmful if you contract it again if you’re an adult over the age of 65, an adult with a compromised immune system, or you have a chronic heart or lung disorders.

Important Takeaway:

If your child exhibits severe symptoms or belongs to a high-risk group, seek prompt medical attention. While there is no specific cure for RSV, supportive care measures can help manage symptoms and improve outcomes. Stay informed, practice good hygiene, and consult with a lungs specialist doctor in Coimbatore to get accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to children who have RSV?
Children infected with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) will have symptoms like fever, runny nose, and cough, which are typical of a common cold. On the other hand, the RSV may cause more serious respiratory symptoms, like wheezing and breathing difficulties, in some infants and early young children.
The respiratory syncytial virus or RSV will remain in the body for one to two weeks. Though symptoms may stay longer particularly in babies and young children with weakened immune systems.
For children with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), there is no particular treatment available. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and offer supportive care, which includes making sure the patient is well hydrated and giving medication to lower the temperature.
Sri Ramakrishna Hospital is one of the best lung specialty hospitals in Coimbatore that is staffed with the top lung specialists in Coimbatore. The specialists offer accurate diagnosis and timely treatment specially designed to address your requirements. The hospital offers advanced treatment options that can help in the treatment with minimal interventions.
Sri Ramakrishna Hospital in Coimbatore provides the best specialized doctors for treating lung infections. The top pulmonologist in Coimbatore provides best diagnostic procedures to cure lung disease in children and help to maintain good lung health.

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