What Every Parent Needs to Know About RSV This Fall

Ask the Expert

These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.

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Question: What’s the difference between RSV and a cold? How do I keep my child from getting RSV?

Now’s the time of year to start thinking about RSV if you have young children. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which has symptoms similar to a bad cold, making it tough for parents to determine when to contact their doctor or visit an emergency room.  RSV can lead to very serious problems like pneumonia, so it is important to know the difference.

“RSV is a problem that occurs throughout our community and during this time of year can cause a surge in patients admitted to pediatric intensive care units,” said Dr. Goddy Corpuz, MD, Pediatrician, Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Cedar Park. Babies younger than six months and those born prematurely are more likely to have problems with RSV.

RSV season typically lasts from November to April.

What is RSV?

Like a bad cold, RSV is spread by droplets from an infected person. According to Dr. Corpuz, RSV usually causes the same symptoms as a cold, including:

  • Cough
  • Stuffy or running nose
  • Mild sore throat
  • Earache
  • Fever

Babies with RSV may also:


  • Have no energy
  • Act fussy or cranky
  • Be less hungry than usual

If a child begins wheezing or is having trouble breathing, Dr. Corpuz advises parents to call their doctor or 911.

If your child has RSV:

  • Prop up your child’s head to make it easier to breathe and sleep.
  • Suction your baby’s nose if he or she can’t breathe well enough to eat or sleep.
  • Control fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to someone younger than 20 years, because it can cause Reye syndrome.

How do I protect myself and my family from RSV?

“It’s difficult to keep from catching RSV, just like it’s hard to keep from catching a cold,” said Dr. Corpuz. “But you can lower the chances by practicing good health habits like washing your hands often, and teaching children to do the same.” See that your child gets all the vaccines your doctor recommends. Medication to prevent RSV may be given to babies and children who are more likely to have problems with the infection. And, while these medications may not completely prevent RSV, they can keep symptoms from getting worse.

Dr. Corpuz says that while it’s impossible to completely prevent the infection, parents can reduce their child’s chances of infection by:

  • Frequent hand washing, especially before holding your child. RSV is unstable in the environment and survives only a few hours on environmental surfaces. The virus is readily inactivated with soap and water and disinfectants.
  • Never sharing personal items such as cups, pacifiers, towels, etc.
  • Frequent washing of clothes, bedding, toys, and play areas.
  • Keeping babies away from people who have colds or the flu, and avoiding crowds during peak RSV season.
  • Never allowing people to smoke around your baby.
Learn more about how to recognize RSV symptoms in your infant. Read more expert medical tips and insights on Baylor Scott & White Health’s Scrubbing In, where hands-on health care discussions take place every day.

*This information is intended for general knowledge and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

Catherine Prystup
About Catherine Prystup 2157 Articles
Catherine Prystup founded LiveMom.com out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.