When to use home treatment
Most mild to moderate respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in otherwise healthy people are like the common cold and can be treated at home. If your child is older than 12 months of age and is not at risk for complications from RSV infection, try home treatment. But RSV infections in people with an increased risk of complications need close monitoring.
People who have impaired immune systems need to see a doctor for cold symptoms because of the increased risk for complications. Also, babies and children-and older adults-who have health problems and other risk factors should see a doctor at the first sign of RSV.
How to help your child with RSV infection
- Watch for signs of dehydration. Make sure to replace fluids lost through rapid breathing, fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Encourage more frequent breast- or bottle-feeding. Avoid giving your baby sports drinks, soft drinks, undiluted fruit juice, or water. These beverages may contain too much sugar, contain too few calories, or lack the proper balance of essential minerals (electrolytes).
- Make your child more comfortable by helping relieve his or her symptoms. Sometimes a child may get some relief from medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or from being kept in an upright position, which makes breathing easier. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Never give aspirin to someone younger than 20 years, because it can cause Reye syndrome, a serious but rare problem. For more information, see Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
- Antibiotics are not usually given for viral infections. But if your child develops complications of RSV, such as an ear infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Do not stop giving antibiotic medicine when your child starts to feel better. The entire prescription must be taken to completely kill the bacteria. If you do not give your child all the medicine, the bacterial infection may return.
- Take care of yourself. Caring for a sick child can be very tiring physically and emotionally. You can best help your child when you are rested and feeling well.