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RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

RSV is a common virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs. It typically arrives in Oregon in fall and stays here through winter.

Almost all children catch RSV by the time they’re 2 years old. Most of the time, RSV causes cold-like symptoms that go away in a week or two.  

RSV symptoms

Early symptoms can include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough (can be wet or dry)
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling less hungry
  • Fussiness in babies or toddlers
  • Fever

Tip: Symptoms can show up two to eight days after being infected. They last an average of five to seven days.

Mild RSV can develop into serious lung infections

RSV can lead to pneumonia and bronchiolitis (lung inflammation more common in babies and young children than adults). Watch for:

  • Breathing that is faster than normal
  • Flaring nostrils and head bobbing with each breath
  • Grunting during breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath

Tip: Call your PCP right away if you see these changes.

RSV symptom in infants younger than 6 months

Symptoms are different in very young babies. Your baby may:

  • Act cranky
  • Be much less active
  • Be much less hungry
  • Breathe strangely (Pausing for more than 10 seconds between breaths)

Tip: If your baby gets sick when they’re 12 weeks (3 months) old or younger, always call their primary care provider.

What to do if you think you or a loved one has RSV

Most of the time, your first step should be to call your primary care clinic. They can help you decide whether you should:

  • Talk with an advice nurse
  • Schedule a virtual (online) visit
  • Come to the clinic for an in-person visit
  • Go to an urgent care
  • Go to an emergency room

Tip: Advice nurses can often offer advice about home care.  

Call your clinic or primary care provider (PCP) if you or your family members are:

  • Having a hard time breathing
  • Breathing fast
  • Wheezing
  • Not drinking enough liquids
    • Their urine is dark yellow.
    • Babies and toddlers stay dry longer than usual.
  • Getting worse symptoms
  • Have skin, lips, tongue or nails that are turning blue. Or have darker skin that’s changing at the lips, tongue, gums and area around the eyes.
  • Not nearly as active or alert as usual.
  • Not getting better after seven days.

Tip: You can get medical advice at night and over the weekend. Just call your primary care office after hours. They’ll direct you if they think you should go to urgent care or an emergency room.

When you should go to the emergency room

If your child is having a very hard time breathing, is less alert than usual, or skin, lips, tongue turning blue, and you can’t get a hold of your doctor, you should take your child to the emergency room.

How RSV spreads

In droplets. A sick person sneezing, coughing, talking or blowing their nose.

By germy hands. RSV lives 30 minutes or more on unwashed hands.

By germy objects or surfaces. RSV can live up to six hours on doorknobs, toys and hard surfaces.

Help stop the spread of RSV

Here are ways to help protect an infant or young child:

  • Keep your distance from anyone sick.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Help young children wash their hands well.
  • Use hand sanitizer if a sink isn’t available.
  • Sneeze or cough into the crook (bend) of your arm.
  • Avoid kissing or sharing bites or and sips with anyone with cold-like symptoms.
  • Only touch your face after washing your hands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Keep sick children at home.
  • Wear a mask in crowded places.

But this year, more children are sick, and sicker than usual. Some need to go to the hospital. In November, Oregon’s governor declared RSV a public health emergency.

Most children will do well at home and get better on their own. Call your doctor before going to the emergency room, as often times your child will be OK. Make sure your child stays hydrated with fluids, Popsicles or electrolyte drinks  like Pedialyte. Use a suction device to keep their nostrils clear.

Here’s info about dealing with RSV if you or family members get sick. And ways to keep your family safe from RSV. 

Resources

  • American Academy of Pediatrics / Healthy Children RSV education RSV here and bronchiolitis education here.
  • Information from CDC about RSV here.
  • Clackamas County vaccination clinic information here.
  • Multnomah County vaccination clinic information here.
  • Washington County vaccine information here.
  • COVID vaccine and testing resources in Oregon here.

How can we help?

Send us a secure message through our Member Portal at careoregon.org/portal. Or call Customer Service at 503-416-4100, toll-free 800-224-4840 or TTY 711. We can help you find a primary care provider.