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    RSV in Babies: What to Know

    Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common, and very contagious, virus that infects the respiratory tract of most children before their second birthday.

    For most babies and young children, the infection causes nothing more than a cold. But for a small percentage, infection with RSV can lead to serious problems such as bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the small airways of the lungs, or pneumonia, which can become life-threatening.

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    The chance of severe infection is greatest for:

    • Babies born prematurely
    • Children younger than 2 who were born with heart or lung disease
    • Infants and young children whose immune systems are weakened due to illness or medical treatment
    • Children under 8 to 10 weeks old


    RSV infection can cause cold-like symptoms, including cough and runny nose, which usually last for 1-2 weeks.

    Call your baby's doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

    If your baby is very tired, breathes rapidly, or has a blue tint to the lips or fingernails, get medical attention immediately.


    There are some steps you can take to try to avoid and prevent RSV:

    • Wash your hands often, especially after contact with anyone who has cold symptoms.
    • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces.
    • Only let people touch your baby after they wash their hands.
    • Avoid kissing your baby if you have cold symptoms.
    • Keep your baby away from crowds.
    • Don’t let anyone smoke around your baby.
    • Limit the time high-risk babies and young children stay in day care, particularly from late fall to early spring when RSV is most common.
    • If possible, keep your baby away from anyone, including older brothers or sisters, who has cold symptoms.

    There is no vaccine for RSV. But a medication called palivizumab may prevent RSV infections and protect high-risk babies from serious complications of RSV infection. If your doctor says your baby is at high risk, she may recommend a monthly shot of this medication during peak RSV season.

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