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What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)? Dr. Muzna Atif Explains What Parents Should Know About the Virus

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What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?  Dr. Muzna Atif Explains What Parents Should Know  About the Virus

Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have been on the rise across the United States. Locally, cases of RSV have been steadily increasing and so have hospitalizations. Dr. Muzna Atif, pediatric hospitalist, and medical director of inpatient pediatric hospitalist services at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center shares what parents needs to know about RSV, the symptoms and when to seek medical care for children.

What is RSV

RSV is a common cold-like virus which generally presents between October to March and can cause more severe illness in children up to age 6. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways of lungs and viral pneumonia in that age group. As compared to Influenza, RSV can severely affect younger children and create respiratory distress with some patients requiring oxygen or respiratory ventilation for support. We are currently experiencing a high rise in cases of RSV, more than average as relaxation of mitigation measures and with schools open, more children and infants are being exposed to this virus for the first time.


RSV usually starts with mild upper respiratory symptoms, like a cough, runny nose, congestion, and possible fever for the first 48-72 hours. Symptoms can progress to more severe symptoms involving the lower respiratory tract, increased breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and low oxygen levels. Severe symptoms usually occur after day three of illness, with peak symptoms by day 5-7 of illness. Gradual improvement with cough and congestion sometimes lasting for few weeks after recovery. Most children are usually seen in emergency rooms or admitted for hospitalization during the peak of their symptoms.

How to Treat RSV

For Children with mild RSV symptoms, treatment is mainly supportive care, giving them fever reducing medications, plenty of liquids to keep them hydrated, a saline nose spray or drops, steam inhalation to help with congestion. Avoid using over the counter cough and cold medications as they have no proven benefit and can have harmful side effects.

As with all respiratory viruses, RSV is also highly contagious. Some ways to limit infection and the spread of germs from person to person is basic preventative hygiene measures, like frequent hand washing, staying home if feeling sick, avoiding large crowds or gatherings, and wearing a mask especially if you have close family or friends at high risk to catching severe illnesses.

When to seek medical care

If your child becomes sick, they should be taken to the emergency department or seek medical attention if they develop to a severe illness, which includes a persistent fever beyond 48-72 hours, shortness of breath or increased effort to breathe, unable to drink enough fluids and are at risk of dehydration or decrease in number of wet diapers.

Our Children’s Health Services provides a children’s outpatient center, neonatal intensive care, pediatric emergency services, a new pediatric inpatient care unit opening in 2023 and beyond. For more information about our Children's Services at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, call 909.865.9858 or email