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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection - Medications

Most respiratory syncytial viral (RSV) infections do not require prescription medicines. But medicines may be recommended for certain people to help:

  • Prevent RSV infection.
  • Treat RSV infection and its complications.

Medicine choices

A medicine may be given to infants and children at high risk for complications of RSV to prevent the infection or reduce its severity. Monoclonal antibodies, such as palivizumab (Synagis), are usually given in monthly doses for up to 5 months. This medicine can stop RSV from multiplying.

Medicines to help treat complications of RSV infection include:

  • Corticosteroids. These medicines may be used if a child has an RSV infection and also has asthma or an allergic-type breathing problem. But corticosteroids are not used now as often as they were used in the past.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics help the body destroy bacteria and may be used to help treat or prevent complications that can occur from RSV.
  • Bronchodilators. They relax the muscle layer that surrounds the breathing tubes in the lung, allowing them to expand and move air more easily. This may help to reduce wheezing.

What to think about

  • Ribavirin (Virazole) is an antiviral medicine that is very rarely used to treat people with RSV infections who have a high risk of developing complications. Studies so far have provided conflicting evidence regarding its effectiveness. The doctor will consider the particular circumstances of the person being treated before making a recommendation about ribavirin.
  • Bronchodilators are effective about half the time for babies.3 Many experts recommend that bronchodilators be tried initially for babies who are having trouble breathing. If the baby is able to breathe easier right away, the medicine can be continued.1

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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