What is RSV?

What is RSV?

Publish Date December 27, 2023 3 Minute Read
Author Olivia Kinney, PharmD, MS

What’s RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract and often presents with symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, sneezing or fever. In the United States, RSV tends to be most common during the fall and winter months. RSV is an airborne illness that spreads through respiratory droplets caused by coughing or sneezing.

Most people with RSV recover in a week or 2, but it can be serious for infants and older adults because it can cause severe infections like pneumonia. If RSV is causing difficulty breathing or dehydration, a person may need to be hospitalized for treatment. So far, the annual cost of hospitalizations due to RSV in adults is more than $1 billion in the United States.

Who’s at Risk for RSV?

Since RSV is the most common cause of hospitalization in infants, many people think RSV is a childhood illness, and they aren’t wrong. Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday. However, adults are at risk too. Older adults are at high risk, as well as adults with heart disease, lung disease, a weakened immune system and those living in a nursing home or in a long-term care facility. Each year, it’s estimated that 6,000-10,000 older adults will die due to RSV infection in the United States.

How Can I Help Prevent RSV?

After decades of research, a public health milestone was achieved in 2023 with FDA approval of the first vaccines to help prevent RSV. After demonstrating safety and efficacy, RSV vaccines are now available for adults who are:

  • 60 years and older
  • Pregnant individuals at 32-36 weeks gestational age

Patients interested in the RSV vaccine should talk with their healthcare providers in order to ask any questions and to see if the RSV vaccine is right for them.

To help protect infants, there are 2 FDA-approved monoclonal antibodies available. Monoclonal antibodies aren’t vaccines, but they do work in a preventive manner to mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. If your child is under 24 months old, RSV prevention may be an option for them.

Don’t forget to also practice healthy habits for prevention like:

  • Stay home and away from others when you’re sick to avoid sharing the infection.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your shirt sleeve rather than your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs and mobile devices.

How Do I Treat RSV?

Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment for RSV, so it’s helpful to get vaccinated for prevention if possible. Fluids and rest are ideal for mild symptoms, and pain or fever can be managed with over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If you have asthma or COPD, keep using your prescribed medications to help you breathe easier if you do have the infection. If you or your child is having continued difficulty breathing, are not drinking enough fluids or are experiencing worsening symptoms, call your healthcare provider rather than self-treating.

What’s Next?

Is your family up to date on their RSV vaccines? The Kroger Family of Pharmacies and Clinics offer RSV vaccines every day to eligible patients aged 60 years and older, and to patients who are pregnant. We do not have the pediatric product in our stores since state laws do not permit us to vaccinate under age 6 months old.

It’s safe to receive multiple vaccines in 1 visit, so take advantage of our expert and convenient services in your community. Walk in, or make an appointment online today.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.