Symptoms and Signs of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause different illnesses, the most common of which is a common cold. In babies and toddlers, it can cause more severe illnesses including pneumonia and bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways). RSV is a highly contagious infection that most often occurs in the winter months.

In most people, RSV leads to the typical signs and symptoms of a cold or upper respiratory infection, including nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, and a mild fever. Swelling around the vocal cords can cause a bark-like cough. Symptoms associated with a more severe infection can include significant fever, wheezing, bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis) around the mouth and fingernails. Young infants may experience difficulty feeding and episodes of apnea (stopped breathing).

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.