Protecting Your Family from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

BabyBy: Paige Blatchford, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season is upon us. Though RSV is a common winter virus for most children, it can be life threatening for some.

On average, RSV leads to 57,527 hospitalizations among children younger than five each year. For most children, RSV is not a major concern. The virus causes lung and airway infections which can lead to mild, cold-like symptoms in adults and healthy children. However, in high-risk infants RSV can lead to severe lung infections.  Infants who are at high-risk are typically younger than 2 months old or were born prematurely. Children younger than 2 years old who are at risk for RSV include those who have had a transplant, have a weakened immune system or have a heart or lung condition.

Even though you can catch RSV at any time of year, infections occur most often during the winter months. RSV season usually lasts from October to April in the United States but RSV season can vary depending on where you live. Ask your child’s healthcare provider when RSV season starts and ends in your area if you’re unsure.

Like most seasonal colds and viruses, RSV spreads easily and enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. The virus is spread through direct and indirect contact with someone who has the virus. Direct contact is physical contact with someone who has the virus. This includes touching, kissing or breathing in droplets that are sent into the air by coughing and sneezing. Indirect contact can happen by touching a surface with the virus and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. The virus can live for several hours on surfaces like countertops, shopping carts, toys and unwashed hands. RSV is easily spread in daycare centers and crowded houses.

The good news is there are things you can do to reduce the risk of your child getting RSV. During RSV season, practice the following to decrease your child’s risk.

  • Wash your baby’s bedding often.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before touching your baby.
  • Keep your baby away from crowds.
  • Keep your baby away from people who are ill.
  • Don’t allow people to smoke near your baby.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often.

Symptoms of RSV usually appear 4-6 days after coming in contact with the virus. Older children may only have mild cold-like symptoms. More severe symptoms of RSV in high-risk infants include:

  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • High fever
  • Bluish skin due to a lack of oxygen

Severe complications from RSV include developing pneumonia, ear infections, asthma and repeated infections. Contact your child’s doctor right away if your child has any of these symptoms.

If your infant is at high risk, a medication called Synagis® is available to help protect him or her from severe RSV. Synagis® is given by intramuscular injection and is administered by a healthcare provider. It is given once a month throughout RSV season. However, similar to a flu shot, Synagis® will not prevent all patients from developing RSV.


Amber Pharmacy is here to help. Amber Pharmacy’s RSV Center of Excellence offers personalized patient care, access to needed medications and the clinical support necessary to promote medication adherence and compliance for patients with RSV.

Are you a healthcare provider who would like to refer a patient? Access the Synagis® referral form.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html (March, 2017).

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