How and When
RSV in Infant Affect Babies
Symptoms and Best Treatment

Learn the symptoms of RSV in infant, duration of RSV season where you live, how to treat RSV, get rid of RSV and prevent RSV infection. Plus the symptoms that need ER = hospital emergency room care.

rsv sick baby gets temperature checked

  • RSV in infants is caused by RSV virus that stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus which often starts as a regular cold.
  • RSV sick infants develop mucus that gets copious when the virus infected cells melt as mucus lumps in the airways.
  • These lumps are hard to cough up, especially for babies younger than 9 months of age, who can have severe RSV infections with runny nose, cough, difficulty breathing and feeding.
  • After having slept or eaten the baby gets coughing attacks, to get rid of the mucus from the air ways.
  • The breathing can get forced, and babies affected by an RS virus infection, are at risk to get pneumonia that needs hospitalization.

RSV Symptoms

From the time of contamination it takes 3-6 days, approximately 72 to 144 hours for the outbreak of the RSV disease.

It often starts as a usual cold, sneezing and runny nose with bubbles of mucus.

When a baby catches the RS-virus during its first year, the falling ill is often insidious with a subtle but slowly increasing fatigue and loss of appetite.

Baby fever is common but it is not a dominating symptom.

Baby Coughing

  • Then comes the typical cough that can affect the breathing.
  • The baby is swallowing the mucus and is later throwing it up.
  • This is the normal way for small children to get rid of excessive mucus from the air passages of the respiratory system.
  • The most severe period of RSV in infant comes after 4 to six days. The breathing can get forced and wheezing.
  • The cough is worst when the baby wakes up after having slept a while and stored up mucus in the lower air passages.
  • The baby can have a hard time getting enough nourishment and liquid.
  • The RSV infection is usually over in two weeks, but many babies can cough for a long time afterward.

The Epidemic Duration of the RSV Virus in USA

RS virus causes yearly epidemics during winter and early spring.


Check your region on the chart to the right and learn which months of the year the RS virus is prevalent each year and may affect your child.

Every other year the epidemics can arrive earlier in the winter season and affect more children.

RSV in infant is contagious by close contact, for example within the family or day care.

RSV infections affects people of all ages and you can get infected several times in life by this virus.

RS virus in infants, RSV in newborns and very old people are at risk getting pneumonia that needs hospital care.

Half of all babies who are in hospital care for RSV are under 2 months of age, and 80% of babies are under 6 months old.

Remaining age groups often get milder RSV infections with colds in infants(rhinitis) with infant nasal congestion and baby coughing.

Serious RSV In Infant Symptoms
Seek Hospital Care!

  • Wheezing, rattling when breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pale looking
  • Listless appearance
  • All babies under six months of age getting a cold that develops into a cough with breathing problems or loss of fluid.
  • Small babies, not yet six months of age, needs to be examined by a child specialist at the hospital emergency room.
  • If your baby gets a cold that develops, with coughing and breathing problems or loss of fluid.
  • If your baby gets slack, pale and worn out from the coughing attacks. This is a warning sign!
  • Or the baby shows signs of loss of fluids = no wet diaper for several hours.
  • You need to take your baby to the nearest emergency room and be examined by a child specialist.
  • Symptoms of not getting enough breast milk or fluid is: Listlessness, decreased urine production and loss of weight.
  • A dry diaper after 8-12 hours is a warning sign!
  • Desiccation = not enough body fluid, makes the mucus viscous and harder to cough up, and that is easy leading to more severe trouble.

For all the above symptoms you need to go to the hospital’s emergency room with your baby immediately.

RSV Treatment
Care At Home
For RSV In Infant

rsv in infant, nosefrida

Nosefrida Baby Nasal Aspirator

Help your child to keep the air passages clean and not congested.

To use the Nosefrida Nasal Aspirator is the most efficient and safe way to clear mucus from the baby’s nose.

If your baby has a lot of nasal mucus, you can get saline spray or nose spray at the pharmacy. Ask the doctor or pharmacist for correct strength and dose.

Clear the nose of mucus prior to applying nose spray.

Pick up your baby, pat the baby’s back, turning him around and turning him over often to loosen the mucus.

Let the baby sleep in the car seat, in a rather upright position will help the baby breathe easier. This method is used in hospitals in Sweden, when babies need hospital care for rsv.

Sitting makes it easier for the baby to breathe, to get rid of mucus and cough it up.

Give your baby fluid.

Continue with breast feeding is very important.

If you are unsure about the baby’s’ body weight, visit the child health care center or your doctor’s office after the other children have left for the day for a weight check.

If the baby gets exhausted due to fever or has pain when coughing you can get fever reducing and pain relieving medication at your pharmacy.

However you should first consult with your baby’s doctor or the hospital!

If you have concerns call your doctor or the hospital and talk to a nurse or doctor at any time.

RSV In Infant Contamination

RS-virus is most contagious in the beginning of the illness.

The virus contaminates by body contact with infected people.

Contact with contaminated objects.

Inhaling small drops from coughing and sneezing people.

The infection starts most of all when the virus gets in contact with mucus membranes in nose, mouth and eyes.

For example when rubbing the eye with a finger or putting the fingers in the mouth after the hands have been contaminated.

The virus can survive at least 12 hours on hard surfaces as door knobs and toys.

The ones who have had the illness don’t get immune and can therefore be sick again, but the symptoms get milder.

However you can still spread the contamination further, especially to day care playmates and small siblings.

There is no vaccine against RS-virus.

Preventing Contamination
Of RSV In Infant

  • If your baby is under six months of age, avoid as much as possible to come in contact with people who have a cold.
  • Keeping siblings apart is hardly possible, but children parties, friends and relatives with a cold virus should be avoided.
  • Avoid crowds of people during the cold season.
  • Be extra careful with hand hygiene when you have a baby, especially if you have a cold yourself or if your have older children that have colds.
  • Wash hands often and carefully with soap and warm water.
  • You can’t prevent RS virus infection by breast feeding.

Care Of RS-Virus In Children

  • If your child gets a cold that develops with strong coughing and breathing problems or loss of fluid you need to visit the nearest emergency clinic.

Older Children With RSV Infection

If your child is older you can care for the child at home.

However it is important to be on the outlook for signs of loss of body fluids and increasing difficulty breathing.
Also check if the child gets listless, hard to communicate with, pale fatigued and impossible to comfort because of coughing or difficulty breathing.
Urinating less, or have less than two heavy wet diapers per day, or has a dry diaper after 8-12 hours.

Hospital Treatment
Of RS Virus In Children

The doctor will find if your baby has RS virus by taking and testing some mucus from the nasal cavity.

If the infection is mild there is no need for special treatment.

It is first of all small babies that need hospital care because of serious RSV infection.

With hospital treatment the child gets help to get rid of mucus from the air passages and get enough fluid and nourishment.

Often babies get treated with Oxygen and a few times respirator care.

Small babies increased risk of getting a serious RS virus infection, are children with chronic lung disease or heart disease.

These children can get preventive treatment with special gamma globulin against RS virus, which prevents the child from getting a severe illness.

Antibiotics have no effect on RS virus infection.

Antibiotics only helps against infections caused by bacteria.

The RSV infection is usually over in two weeks, but many babies can cough for a long time afterward.

Some babies with RSV in infant, who have been so sick that they needed hospital care for RS virus infection, can get new breathing problems in connection with colds a few years after the RSV infection.

Acknowledgment: SMI – Smittskyddsinstitutet, Sweden/Infectious Diseases Institute, Sweden

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