RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) or bronchiolitis

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) or bronchiolitis

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) affects your child's nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children younger than one year old.

Your child can get RSV more than once. Because RSV is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help. The virus must run its course.

Symptoms of RSV are:

  • congestion and nasal drainage
  • loss of appetite
  • cough that won't go away
  • wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing
  • fever (sometimes)

Call 911 or take your child to an Emergency Department if your child's lips turn blue.

How to make your child feel more comfortable

  • For an infant, use a rubber syringe bulb to remove any mucus in their nose. This will be helpful before each feeding and before sleep.
  • Give your child lots of clear liquids. For infants, give Pedialyte®. You may need to give small amounts of liquids more often. Watch how often your child urinates to see if they need more to drink.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding or formula feeding.
  • Keep your child away from secondhand smoke.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if your:

  • child starts to breathe very fast (60 breaths or more in one minute)
  • child's nostrils open wide (flare) when breathing
  • child's ribs show with each breath
  • child's cough is making it hard to eat
  • child's cough is hard enough to cause them to vomit (throw up)
  • child has a fever of at least 101 F for more than two days
  • child has trouble sleeping
  • child has new symptoms that concern you
  • child has not passed urine in the last six to eight hours

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022