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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection - What Happens

In healthy children, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections tend to be mild and resemble a cold. Children who have only upper respiratory system camera.gif symptoms, such as a sore throat or a runny nose, usually recover in about 10 to 14 days.

Two different types and many different subtypes (strains) of RSV exist. For this reason, you cannot have full immunity to the virus and may have many RSV infections throughout your life. A child's first RSV infection, which almost always occurs by age 2, usually is the most severe. Certain babies and children have an increased risk of complications from an RSV infection because of a health condition or another problem. Also, babies have narrow breathing tubes that can clog easily, making breathing hard. The most common complications for young children are bronchiolitis and pneumonia, which are lower respiratory tract infections.

Adults older than 65 have an increased risk of complications following infection with RSV. Pneumonia is a particular risk, especially if other health problems exist, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure.

It may take older adults longer to recover from RSV infection and its complications than people in other age groups.

    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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