Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.
RSV spreads between people when an infected person coughs or sneezes near others and you get virus droplets in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Or you touch a surface that has the virus on it, and then touch your face before washing your hands.
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include:
- runny nose
- decrease in appetite
- and/or wheezing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps to prevent the spread of RSV, especially if you or your child is experiencing cold-like symptoms.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others
- Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and mobile devices