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We are in full swing of “Sick Season”, a time when contagious illnesses tend to rapidly spread. Fall through spring, we see an increase in cases of various infections including respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, the flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). 

Respiratory System & RSV: 

The respiratory system is vital for our body to work.  It enables us to breathe, exhale, talk , and smell. The respiratory system is divided into 2 tracts: the upper tract which includes the nose, mouth, and throat; and the lower tract which includes the lungs. RSV infects the lungs and breathing passages.

RSV and its Impact:

In most healthy adults, RSV typically causes mild cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. However, in infants and young children, RSV can lead to severe health issues and is among the leading causes of hospitalization for children under the age of 1. RSV infections can cause conditions like bronchiolitis (inflammation and mucus build-up in the small airways of the lungs), pneumonia (lung infection), and dehydration (state of having dangerously low volumes of water in the body).

How Does RSV Spread?

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) can easily spread from person to person. RSV can be transmitted through:

  • Coughing or sneezing. If a person who has RSV is coughing or sneezing, the droplets from their cough or sneeze can enter through your eyes, nose, or mouth and make you sick. 

  • Direct contact. RSV can spread from direct contact such as kissing an infected person or from touching an infected surface and not washing your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. RSV can survive for hours on surfaces. 

People infected with RSV are contagious for 3 to 8 days. However, babies and immunocompromised individuals may still be contagious for up to 4 weeks, even if they no longer have symptoms. 

Some babies and young children have a heightened risk of severe infection from RSV including: 

  • Babies born prematurely - babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy

  • Babies less than 1 year old 

  • Children younger than 2 years old with preexisting lung or heart issues

  • Children with compromised immune systems

  • Children who have difficulty swallowing or clearing their throat of mucus


Symptoms typically appear 4 to 6 days after infection. If you think your baby is showing signs of being sick call your pediatrician right away. Watch this video to help visualize signs and symptoms of RSV in Babies. 

Symptoms include:

  • runny nose

  • coughing

  • sneezing

  • fever

  • a decrease in appetite 

  • Bronchiolitis symptoms

  • Fast breathing

  • Flaring of the nostrils & head bobbing with breathing

  • Rhythmic grunting during breathing (see sound clip clip, below)

  • Belly breathing, tugging between the ribs and/or the lower neck (see video, below)

  • Wheezing

  • Dehydration (fewer than 1 wet diaper every 8 hours)

  • Pauses or difficulty breathing

  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone

  • Significantly decreased activity and alertness

How to Prevent RSV

  • The best way to protect babies and children: RSV can be prevented by one of the two ways. Either babies or young children receive antibody products or their mother receives the RSV vaccine during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about recommended options for you and your baby and read more at the CDC website here. 

  • The RSV vaccine is also approved for older adults aged 60 years and older, who are also at great risk of serious illness. Read more about what older adults should know at the CDC website.

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or your inner elbow. Try not to cough or sneeze in your hands.

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.

  • Avoid direct contact with others such as kissing, touching hands, and sharing food or eating utensils.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently high-touch hard surfaces (for example, door handles, countertops, shopping carts) and soft surfaces (for example, blankets and sheets)

  • Limit time spent in highly contagious settings such as daycare during RSV season.


Learn about how to keep your baby healthy & safe from COVID-19 here

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