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How to treat RSV at home and when to go to the doctor

December 19, 2022 Child and Adolescent Health

By: Our partners at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Cold and flu season is here, with a vengeance. For most kids, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is just a miserable virus. Take these steps to ease your child's discomfort and get through the worst of it at home, if possible.

What is RSV?

RSV is a virus that causes a miserable cold with thick mucus and a cough that can easily last a month. You can get the infection at any age and more than once in your lifetime. It tends to be particularly tough on babies and toddlers because the worst episode of RSV is usually the first time you catch the germ.

For the majority of children with RSV, symptoms can be successfully managed at home. Signs of RSV typically peak on days three, four and five of illness. They may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

How to treat RSV at home or see a doctor

Like all colds, there is no medication to kill RSV. However, there are many ways to ease your child's discomfort at home, including:

  • Clear up congestion
  • Pick up steam
  • Let honey help
  • Relieve pain
  • Stay hydrated

In general, you should take your child to the doctor if they show these signs of a more serious case:

  • Breathing trouble
  • Dehydration
  • Pain

For more on ways to treat RSV at home, and for information on how to know if a medical visit is needed, visit the full article on CHOP's website.