Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a very common illness. Almost every baby will get it by age 2. 70 percent of babies get it during their 1st year. It seems like a cold and is usually not serious, but unfortunately, it is sometimes serious. Read this post to learn more about this illness and what to do for your baby.

RSV Overview

RSV is most common between the months of October and April. It seems so much like a cold that many parents don’t know their child has RSV. It may last a week or two weeks and is usually just unpleasant and not a cause for concern.

Babies who are less than 4 months old at the start of RSV season, were born prematurely and have underdeveloped lungs, or have heart conditions, lung problems, or weaker immune systems are at risk for more severe cases of RSV. In these cases, it may cause pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
RSV is one of the most common reasons that a child under 1 develops severe bronchiolitis.

Out of 100 babies under the age of 6 months with RSV, only one or two of them need to be hospitalized to be given help with breathing.

Symptoms of RSV

Symptoms usually begin to show anywhere from two to eight days after being exposed to the virus. The symptoms will peak around the third to the fifth day they’re sick.

The most common symptoms of RSV in babies are:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Irritability

Babies under 6 months may display:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • A decrease in activity
  • Apnea or pauses in breathing

Contracting RSV. Children can get RSV from an infected child or adult coughing or sneezing around them and from touching hands or objects with the virus on them and then putting their hands in their mouth or rubbing their eyes or nose. Children are contagious anywhere from three to eight days before they show symptoms.


Treatment usually consists of reducing symptoms because we’re dealing with a virus:

  • Keep them hydrated
  • Set up a cool-mist humidifier
  • Use a bulb syringe or infant aspirator to clear their nose, particularly before feeding
  • If your doctor approves them, you can use OTC pain relievers and cough or cold medications

When to Take Baby To The Doctor

For babies with a higher risk of serious RSV, you should reach out to the doctor immediately with the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Retractions (fast breathing or sucking in their stomach as they breathe)

Any child needs medical care with RSV if they have the following symptoms:

  • Fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Apnea
  • Labored or rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Gray or blue skin, tongue, or nails
  • Worsening cough
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration

Preventing Serious RSV

There is no vaccine that is effective at preventing RSV, but there is a drug that can prevent serious RSV in high-risk babies. Your doctor may recommend it for these children.

There are other ways to reduce your baby’s chances of getting RSV: 

  • Wash your hands and your toddler’s hands regularly
  • Get vaccinated for the flu
  • Don’t smoke or vape
  • Breastfeed
  • Disinfect
  • Limit them from putting unsanitary things in their mouth

Call Petite Dreamers Today to Begin Your Sleep Journey

The baby and family need their sleep to be healthy and in a better mood to deal with an illness. If your baby isn’t sleeping, contact one of the sleep consultants at Petite Dreamers to schedule a discovery call.