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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract and the lungs. The RSV virus is so common that by the age of two, most children have had the virus one or more times. While it is most common in children, adults can also contract the illness.

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What are the symptoms of RSV?

The symptoms of RSV are similar to the common cold. Self-care and over-the-counter treatments can usually relieve discomfort. However respiratory syncytial virus can sometimes cause severe infections, especially in certain individuals who are more at risk.

  • Nasal congestion

  • Runny nose

  • Mild headache

  • Low-grade fever

  • Dry cough

  • Sore throat

  • Severe cough

  • Wheezing

  • Fever

  • Bluish color of the skin

  • Rapid breathing

  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases of RSV, pneumonia or bronchiolitis can occur from the virus entering the lower respiratory tract, causing inflammation of the small airway passages of the lungs.

  • Short, shallow and rapid breathing

  • Skin and chest muscles pulling inward with each breath

  • Poor feeding

  • Coughing

  • Irritability

  • Unusual tiredness (lethargy)

How is RSV diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and consideration of the patient’s medical history. Our providers will check children suspected to have the virus of symptoms common to respiratory infections. Such signs include:

  • Coughing, which can range from mild to barking

  • Low- or high-grade fever

  • Runny nose

  • Nasal congestion

  • Difficulty breathing, which is often indicated by faster breathing than usual

  • Tiredness or irritability

If symptoms are severe, chest X-rays may be taken to check for signs of pneumonia. Blood or urine tests may also be recommended to check for bacterial infections and dehydration.

How is RSV treated?

RSV usually gets better on its own in about 1 to 2 weeks. For most people, RSV treatment can be done at home with self-care and over-the-counter medications. You can relieve your fever with painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children.

If your child is sick with RSV, keep their head propped up at night so they can breathe and sleep more easily. If your infant is having difficulty breathing, you can suction their nose using an over-the-counter product made for infants.

If symptoms become severe, or the child/infant has difficulty breathing, hospitalization may be necessary. Talk to your doctor if RSV symptoms are severe or get worse over time — especially in those at a higher risk of serious infection.

Learn more about treating RSV at home.


While RSV is mild in most people, it can cause serious infections. People most at risk of developing severe symptoms are premature babies, infants in overcrowded childcare settings, people who have heart or lung problems, adults over the age of 65 and those with compromised immune systems.

Yes, RSV is transmissible from person to person. People with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days, although this can increase to up to 4 weeks in some people. The virus is spread through droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

People of all ages can get RSV. It often goes unnoticed in adults, appearing similar to the common cold.

Most people get RSV for the first time as a baby or toddler. Repeat infections can occur at any age in life.

RSV is very widespread, but you can protect yourself through regular disease prevention measures. This includes hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, staying home when sick and social distancing. Keep up with vaccinations for other respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. This will lower the chance of getting both illnesses at once.

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When should you visit urgent care for RSV diagnosis and treatment?

If you or your child is experiencing RSV symptoms, check in online or walk in to a WellNow location nearest you.

This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.

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Illnesses and Symptoms We Treat

WellNow Urgent Care treats a variety of illnesses, infections and diseases along with their
associated symptoms. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unwell, our dedicated medical
team is prepared to deliver a personalized and tailored treatment plan to help you get
better, faster.

This list contains our most commonly treated illnesses and symptoms. If you are
experiencing an illness not listed or are unsure of the source of your discomfort, visit a
WellNow location near you
or start a virtual care session.

A - E

Abscesses and Cysts
Common Cold
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
COVID - 19
Ear Infections