Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Diagnosis

Your doctor may consider RSV as a possible diagnosis based on the findings from a physical examination and the timing of symptoms. During the examination, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs, checking for wheezing or any abnormal sounds.

Usually, laboratory and imaging tests are not required for diagnosing RSV. However, they can be helpful in identifying complications related to RSV or ruling out other conditions that might have similar symptoms. These tests may involve:

  • Chest X-rays to assess lung inflammation
  • Mouth or nasal secretions swabbed for viral signs
  • Blood tests to check white cell counts or to search for viruses, bacteria, and other germs
  • Pulse oximetry to identify lower than normal blood oxygen levels

Treatment

Respiratory syncytial virus treatment primarily revolves around supportive care measures aimed at enhancing your child’s comfort. However, if severe symptoms manifest, hospital care may be necessary.

Supportive treatment

Your physician might suggest using over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen to lower a fever. It’s important to avoid giving aspirin to a child. Using nasal saline drops and suctioning can help clear a congested nose. If a bacterial complication, like bacterial pneumonia, occurs, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

To keep your child comfortable, make sure they drink plenty of fluids and watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, sunken eyes, reduced urine output, and increased sleepiness or irritability.

Hospitalization

If the RSV infection progresses to a severe stage, hospitalization might be required. Hospital treatments may encompass:

  • Intravenous (IV) solutions
  • Oxygen that has been humidified
  • In rare circumstances, a mechanical ventilation (breathing machine)

The effectiveness of inhalers (bronchodilators) or steroids in treating RSV infection has not been established.