Public Health


What is RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the leading cause of hospitalization in babies under age 1.

RSV is a highly contagious virus that can lead to respiratory illness in babies, including lung infections such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.*

RSV infections can go from mild symptoms to hospitalization in less than a week.

Mild symptoms may include a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing, while severe symptoms can include wheezing and difficulty breathing.

* Bronchiolitis (bron-key-oh-lie-tis) is a viral infection in the smallest airways (bronchioles) in your lungs. When the bronchioles swell and become inflamed, mucus may build up, leading to congestion and difficulty breathing.

*Pneumonia (noo-mohn-yuh) is a lung infection that can cause mild to severe coughing, fever, and trouble breathing.


Health Advisory

HEALTH ALERT - Respiratory Viral Infections Affecting Children Causing Strain in Healthcare System Capacity
Early Increase in Respiratory Virus Activity Among Pediatric Population in 2022-2023 Fall and Winter

Signs & Symptoms

RSV can often mimic a cold or the flu. But as the infection becomes more severe so do the symptoms. Keep a close eye on your baby if you notice any of the following:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Congestion

In babies under 6 months, the only RSV symptoms they may show are irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing.

RSV Fast Facts

  • RSV is most common during the winter virus season (November – March) but can vary by local areas.
  • RSV spreads when droplets from a cough, sneeze, or infected surface get inside the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • 2 out of 3 babies will get RSV by age 1.
  • RSV can go from cold-like symptoms to hospitalization in less than a week.
  • Though hospitalization happens in only 1%-2% of RSV cases, it’s not predictable which baby will be hospitalized.
  • Babies are 16x more likely to be hospitalized with RSV than with the flu.

When To Contact A Doctor

If you notice any of the following in your baby, contact their doctor right away:

Short, shallow, and abnormally fast breathing: Look for chest wall retractions. Think of chest wall retractions as a “caving in” of the chest in between and under the ribs.

  • Your baby has a wheezing cough.
  • Nasal flaring: When your baby’s nostrils spread out with every breath.
  • Your baby is unusually tired or has a blue tint to their lips or fingernails.
  • Your baby has poor feeding.
  • Your baby has a fever:
    • 100.4° F / 38°C or higher for a baby younger than 3 months.
    • 102.2°F / 39°C or higher for a baby older than 3 months.

Help Protect Your Baby

RSV spreads incredibly easily. Talk with your family and friends about practicing the following healthy habits to help protect your baby from RSV:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, including your baby’s toys.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, avoid kissing or touching your baby.
  • Cover your face when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid sharing utensils if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Symptom Tracker

RSV is unpredictable and all babies are at risk.

We created a guide with information from the CDC to help you understand what your baby might experience as RSV progresses.

Days 1-2

What may be happening:

  • Baby inhales droplets containing RSV

Symptoms can include:

  • No Symptoms

Days 3-5

What may be happening:

  • RSV damages cells in the ear, nose, and throat

Symptoms can include:

  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite

Days 6-8

What may be happening:

  • RSV infects cells deep in the lung

Symptoms can include:

  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing and/or grunting noises
  • Nasal flaring
  • Abnormal chest movement when breathing