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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection - Prevention

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is easy to catch (highly contagious). It is common for children to get viral infections such as RSV if they are often exposed to infected people and have not built up immunity. There is no sure way to prevent respiratory illnesses in babies and children.

Sometimes medicines are used to help prevent RSV infection in babies and children who are at risk for complications from RSV. Even if RSV infection develops, use of these medicines may result in a less severe infection.

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Monoclonal antibodies, such as palivizumab (Synagis), may be used to help prevent or reduce the severity of RSV infection.

The following may help reduce your child's risk of respiratory problems:

  • Wash your hands frequently, and teach your children to do the same. Also, make sure people who care for your child wash their hands and understand the importance of this habit in preventing the spread of infection.
  • See that your child gets all of his or her vaccines. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and pneumococcal vaccines are especially important.
  • Breast-feed your baby for at least the first 6 months after birth, if possible. Breast milk seems to offer some protection against RSV infection, but more study is needed.2 Breast milk does not prevent RSV infection.
  • Separate a child diagnosed with RSV from others in the home as much as possible.
  • If you smoke, quit. If you cannot quit, do not smoke in the house or car. Secondhand smoke irritates the mucous membranes in your child's nose, sinuses, and lungs, making him or her more susceptible to infections.

Outbreaks of RSV often occur between late fall and early spring. To keep from catching the virus during this time, limit your exposure to RSV. This is most critical for babies and children who are at risk for serious RSV infections. Try to avoid:

  • Sharing items such as cups, glasses, and utensils with others.
  • People who have upper respiratory infections, such as colds.
  • Child care centers, malls, movie theaters, and other places where many people are in an enclosed area.
  • Visiting children who are in the hospital.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 25, 2012
    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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