Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a contagious respiratory virus that usually causes mild symptoms in healthy adults, but can be severe in infants, the elderly and immunocompromised. RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, with most children experiencing it by the age of 2. Rates of RSV usually follow a pattern from fall to early spring and can infect all ages with possibility of reinfection.


RSV is often diagnosed based on symptomology, a nose swab is used for more severe cases requiring medical attention. Symptoms can take up to a week to develop after exposure and resolve within 2 weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Sneezing and/or wheezing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Bronchiolitis- this inflammation of the bronchioles (tiny airways of the lungs) presents as shortness of breath and wheezing.
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Severe Lower Respiratory Infection like Pneumonia- seek medical attention if this symptom arises, especially in infants.

Treatment and Prevention

Mild symptoms can be managed with over the counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen, cough syrup, plenty of rest and fluids.

For higher risk of prevention, avoid close contact with infected individuals, especially if immunocompromised, and practice good hygiene habits; frequent handwashing, cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, stay home when ill, wear a mask and, frequently disinfect surfaces.

Health Canada has approved preventative vaccination measures in infants and the elderly with underlying medical conditions, but it is not yet available. See Resources for developments.