Understanding Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Here, we’ll provide valuable information about RSV, including who’s vulnerable, symptoms, prevention, testing, vaccination, and treatment.

Who’s Vulnerable to RSV?

RSV can affect individuals of all ages, but certain groups are more vulnerable, including:

  • Infants and Young Children: Particularly those under the age of two.
  • Older Adults: Especially individuals over 65 years of age.
  • Individuals with Chronic Health Conditions: People with chronic heart or lung disease, weakened immune systems, or those undergoing medical treatments are at higher risk.
Recognizing the symptoms of RSV
Symptoms of RSV:
 Common signs include:
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Runny Nose
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Irritability (in infants and young children)

Testing for RSV

Diagnostic tests may be conducted if someone exhibits symptoms or belongs to a high-risk group. Common tests include:

  • Nasal Swab: A sample is taken from the nose to detect the virus.
  • Blood Test: Detecting antibodies or the virus itself.


RSV vaccines help protect adults 60 years and older from severe RSV illness. Older adults are at greater risk than young adults for serious complications from RSV because immune systems weaken with age. In addition, certain underlying medical conditions may increase the risk of getting very sick from RSV. Older adults with these conditions may especially benefit from getting RSV vaccine. If you are 60 years and older, talk to your healthcare provider to see if RSV vaccination is right for you.

For information about where to find vaccines in your area, visit Vaccine Information for Adults | Where to Find Adult Vaccines | CDC.

RSV Immunizations to Protect Infants and Toddlers

There are two ways to protect your baby from getting very sick with RSV. One is an RSV vaccine given during pregnancy. The other is an RSV immunization that provides antibodies to your baby after birth. If you receive RSV vaccine while pregnant, your baby will have protection and, in most cases, should not need an RSV immunization later.

The two options to protect your baby are:

  1. Getting an RSV vaccine if you are 32-36 weeks pregnant during RSV season. This vaccine is recommended from September through January for most of the United States because RSV is typically a fall and winter virus. The seasonality of the RSV season may vary depending on where you live, and state, local, or territorial health departments may recommend different timings for administration for their area.
  2. Get an RSV antibody immunization for your baby if they are younger than eight months and born during or entering their first RSV season. In rare cases, a healthcare provider may determine an RSV immunization is needed for an infant even though the mother received an RSV vaccine.

A dose of RSV antibody is also recommended for children between the ages of 8 and 19 months entering their second RSV season who are in at least one of these groups:

  • Children who have chronic lung disease from being born prematurely
  • Children who are severely immunocompromised
  • Children with cystic fibrosis who have severe disease
  • American Indian and Alaska Native children


For mild cases, home care may be sufficient, including:

  • Hydration
  • Fever Management
  • Rest

Severe cases may require hospitalization and supportive care, such as oxygen therapy.

This information serves as a general guide. Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice or if you suspect RSV. Stay informed, take preventive measures, and prioritize your respiratory health.

Remember, timely knowledge and action can significantly impact the course of RSV. If you have specific concerns or questions, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.