What can I do to prevent getting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or prevent spreading RSV if infected?

You can follow the same precautions that one follows if they have the cold, flu or any other contagious disease:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (Alcohol-based rubs work well for young children who don’t have the coordination or attention span for proper hand washing technique.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of viruses from your hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing and coughing or sneeze and cough into your elbow. Throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands afterward. Never cough or sneeze into your hands!
  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with those who have known RSV, coughs, colds or are sick. Stay home if you are sick.
  • Don’t share cups, toys or bottles, or any objects. Viruses may be able to live on such surfaces for hours (and be transmitted to your hands).
  • If you are prone to sickness or have a weakened immune system, stay away from large crowds of people.
  • Clean frequently used surfaces (such as doorknobs and counter tops) with a virus-killing disinfectant.

Additional tips for children:

  • Keeping your children home from day care when they or other children become ill.
  • If you have a child at high risk of developing severe RSV, try to limit time at child care centers or gatherings of large number of children during the RSV season.
  • Wash toys frequently.

How can I make my child with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) feel better at home?

  • Do not allow anyone to smoke around your child or in the home. This can complicate breathing.
  • Try using a cool mist vaporizer to soothe dry breathing passages if recommended by your doctor. Hot-air vaporizers should be avoided because of the risk for scald burns.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of fluids, such as breast milk or formula for infants, or milk, juices, and water for older children. Breast milk contains antibodies that can help fight infections.
  • For fever, give your child (older than 6 months) medicine such as acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol®) or ibuprofen. Never give your child aspirin, as aspirin could cause Reye’s syndrome.
  • Apply saline nasal drops to help loosen mucus in the nose.
  • Blow little noses frequently (or gently suction your infants’ nose).
  • Allow your child plenty of rest, as needed.
  • Give all medicines as instructed by your child’s doctor.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy