Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection - Treatment Overview
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections are usually mild and seem like a common cold. In
most cases, RSV infections go away on their own in about 10 to 14 days. Home
treatment to ease symptoms and prevent
complications is usually all that is needed.
- Watch for signs of
dehydration. Signs of dehydration include being thirstier than usual and having darker urine than usual. 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. You can suction your baby's nose if he or she can't breathe well enough
to eat or sleep.
- Make sure you understand whether and when
antibiotics are needed. Antibiotics are not usually
given for RSV infections. But if your child develops complications, 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.
Treatment for severe infection or complications
Children who develop lower respiratory infections, especially
bronchiolitis, may need medicines such as
bronchodilators in addition to home treatment.
Antibiotics may be used to treat a bacterial infection (such as pneumonia) that develops as a complication. But antibiotics don't treat RSV or any other viral infection.
When complications develop in otherwise healthy children,
corticosteroid medicines sometimes are used. But more
study is needed before corticosteroids are routinely recommended for this
A child who is having
difficulty breathing or is
dehydrated may need to be cared for in a hospital. The
child may need
respiratory and other medical treatments. In very rare
cases, some children receive the antiviral medicine
ribavirin while they are in the hospital.
- Pregnant women should avoid contact with a child who is
- If your child is in the hospital for RSV, there are
extra measures you can take to make his or her stay