RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a respiratory virus that can become serious if contracted by infants or older adults. RSV is the number one cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one-year-old and makes up a significant amount of respiratory illness cases in older people.

Generally, RSV occurs the most in the United States during the fall, winter, and spring months. Although, the severity and time of year it circulates can vary depending on the environment.

People of all ages can get RSV infections, but those at highest risk include:

  • Premature babies
  • Children with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease
  • Children with weakened immune systems (generally due to a medical condition or treatment)
  • Adults with weakened immune systems
  • Older people (especially those with lung or heart disease) 

How it spreads

Those infected with RSV are usually contagious for about 3 to 8 days, with the exception of infants or people with compromised immune systems, as they can spread the virus for up to 4 weeks after symptoms subside. It’s most common that children become infected with RSV outside of the home, at places like school, daycare, or on the playground.

RSV spreads in numerous ways but ultimately comes from someone infected with the virus. You can catch RSV if the virus comes in contact with your mouth, eyes, or nose. Examples of that include getting coughed or sneezed on, touching your face after touching a contaminated surface, or being kissed by someone who’s contagious. 

Prevent it

To prevent your child and family from getting RSV, follow these helpful tips:

  1. Wash your hands and your children’s hands thoroughly: Follow the 5-step guideline: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry. (You can never wash your hands enough!)
  2. Avoid close contact with others: Don’t share any food or liquids others. Be careful not to touch your child’s face with unwashed hands, and avoid letting anyone kiss them, as they could be contagious.
  3. Steer clear of public hot spots for germs: If possible, avoid doorknobs, buttons, water fountains, and other surfaces that countless people touch throughout the day. (If not possible, be sure to wash your hands after touching). To decrease a child’s chance of getting RSV, try to cut back on the time they spend in child-care centers or other potentially contaminated settings during fall, winter, and spring.
  4. Wipe down the surfaces around your house: Since children usually bring RSV into the home, be sure to keep countertops, remotes, doorknobs, electronics, and toys clean with antibacterial wipes.
  5. Cover your mouth: Make it a habit yourself and encourage each family member to cover their mouth every time they open it to sneeze, cough, or yawn. Try to use a tissue, handkerchief, or your shirt sleeve to shield your mouth up before using your hands.  


Signs of RSV to watch for include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

If someone in your family starts showing symptoms of RSV, visit Oklahoma ER & Hospital for immediate assistance. Our top-of-the-line facility is equipped to handle any and all medical emergencies, and our doors are always open. 

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Oklahoma ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Oklahoma ER & Hospital, or any of our concierge-level medical facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.