The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is the infections of the lungs and the respiratory tract. This virus commonly infects children by age 2.
RSV symptoms are mild and usually are similar to that of the common cold. Usually, self-care is the basic way to ease symptoms.
In some individuals, RSV can cause severe infections, especially among premature babies, older adults, infants and adults with heart or lung disease. This virus can affect people with weak immune systems.
Signs and symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus infection usually appear about four to six days after being exposed to the virus. In adults and older children, RSV usually causes mild cold-like signs and symptoms. These are:
Your doctor may suspect respiratory syncytial virus infection based on a medical and physical exam. He or she will use a stethoscope to listen and check for wheezing or other abnormal sounds in your lungs.
Laboratory and imaging tests are not necessary. However, they can help diagnose complications or rule out other conditions that may cause the same symptoms. Their tests may include the following:
- Blood tests to check for white cell counts or to look for viruses, bacteria, and other germs
- Chest x-rays to check for lung inflammation
- A swab of secretions from inside the mouth or nose to check for signs of the virus
- Sometimes, painless skin monitoring (pulse oximetry) to detect lower than normal levels of oxygen in the blood
For respiratory syncytial virus infections, treatment generally involves self-care measures to make your child more comfortable. But if severe symptoms appear, hospital care may be needed. Care may be:
Hospital care is needed when RSV infection is severe. Treatments at the hospital may include:
- Intravenous fluids
- Mechanical ventilation
The doctor may recommend an inhaled form of an antiviral drug known as ribavirin for people with very weak immune systems. Inhalers or steroids are not proven to help treat RSV infections.