How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that can cause severe symptoms in infants and young children. “How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children” Leads to a significant number of hospitalizations and, in some cases, even death. In 2019, about 1.4 million infants ages 0–6 months globally were hospitalized for episodes of RSV-associated acute lower respiratory infection.

RSV is the most common cause of infant hospitalizations in high-income countries, with an estimated 58,000-80,000 children younger than 5 years being hospitalized due to RSV infection in the United States alone.

How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children | Stock Photo
How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children | Stock Photo

RSV infection can lead to serious conditions such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia, particularly in high-risk groups, including premature infants, children with chronic lung disease, and those with weakened immune systems.

Understanding RSV and Its Impact

RSV is a highly contagious virus that spreads through respiratory droplets. It can cause a range of symptoms, from mild cold-like illness to severe lower respiratory tract infections. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to RSV, with those under 6 months of age being at the highest risk of developing severe illness.

How does RSV affect a baby?

According to Dr. Danelle Fisher, a board-certified pediatrician and Chair of Pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, while RSV will cause symptoms of the common cold in older children and adults, it may affect infants and young children differently.

“The younger you are, the more chance you have of this virus causing severe respiratory issues, including wheezing and difficulty breathing,” Dr. Fisher told MNT.

“A lot of times, even the babies will go apneic, which means they pause or stop breathing for a little while. The younger you are, the more dangerous it can be.”

Dr. Mohamed Zebda, a board-certified pediatrician at the UH Health Family Care Center and clinical associate professor at the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine at the University of Houston, explained to MNT:

“Most children have had RSV at least once by the age of 2Trusted Source. Many children will have mild symptoms. Common symptoms include cough, congestion, runny nose, and fever.”

How do babies get RSV?

RSV spreadsTrusted Source both through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, as well as contaminated surfaces.

“RSV can spread from person to person, just like colds and other respiratory viruses,” Dr. Kris Bryant, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Norton Children’s in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases explained to MNT.

“The virus can also live on hard surfaces for many hours, and touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth is one way infections can occur,” Dr. Bryant continued.

“RSV can also live on hands for 30 minutes or more, so handwashing is important in reducing the spread of this virus.”

“RSV is spread when a baby inhales droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze,” added Dr. Moses Olorunnisola, a pediatrician with Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health Medical Group in New Jersey.

“A baby can also contract RSV from direct contact — if an infected person kisses them on the face, for example. Additionally, If a baby touches a toy or surface that is contaminated, and then touches his or her eyes, mouth, or nose, they can contract RSV,” Dr. Olorunnisola continued.

Preventive Measures

How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children | <strong><a href=";qview=100577070">Stock Photo</a></strong>
How to Protect Your Little Ones: Preventing RSV in Infants and Young Children | Stock Photo

1. Everyday Preventive Measures

  • Handwashing: Regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water is the top way to prevent RSV infection.
  • Avoiding Close Contact: Minimizing close contact with sick individuals, especially during RSV season, can help reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Staying Home When Sick: Encouraging individuals to stay home from work or school when they are sick can prevent the spread of RSV.

2. Vaccination and Medication

  • Nirsevimab (Beyfortus): The FDA has approved a new drug, Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), for the prevention of RSV lower respiratory tract disease in babies and toddlers. This medication has shown promising results in reducing the risk of severe RSV illness in infants.
  • RSV Vaccines: Ongoing research is focused on the development of RSV vaccines to provide long-term protection against the virus.

Protecting Infants and Young Children

Given the severity of RSV in infants and young children, parents and caregivers need to take proactive measures to protect this vulnerable population. In addition to following the everyday preventive measures, parents should consider the following:

  • Consulting Healthcare Providers: Seeking guidance from healthcare providers on the most effective preventive strategies, including vaccination and medication, can help safeguard infants and young children from RSV.
  • COVID-19 Vaccination: Considering COVID-19 vaccination for infants and children, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can contribute to overall protection against respiratory infections, including RSV.

Additional Protective Measures:

  • Breastfeeding: Studies suggest that breastfed infants have a lower risk of RSV-related hospitalization compared to formula-fed babies. If you’re breastfeeding, keep up the good work!
  • Smoke-free environments: Secondhand smoke exposure significantly increases the risk of respiratory illnesses, including RSV. Ensure your home and childcare settings are smoke-free.
  • Childcare hygiene: If your child attends daycare, inquire about their hygiene and infection control practices to ensure they align with recommended guidelines.

Remember: These strategies are most effective when practiced consistently. By working together, we can create a safe and healthy environment for our little ones to thrive, even during RSV season.


In conclusion, RSV is a significant public health concern, particularly for infants and young children. By implementing a combination of everyday preventive measures, vaccination, and medication, it is possible to reduce the impact of RSV and protect this vulnerable population from severe illness. Ongoing research and the development of new preventive strategies, such as the approval of Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), offer hope for better RSV prevention in the future. It is important for parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to stay informed about the latest recommendations and to work together to ensure the well-being of infants and young children, especially during RSV season.

Read Also | How Probiotics and Prebiotics in Fermented Foods Impact Mental Health

Note: This article is written based on scientific evidence found by the team. Sources are duly referenced with keywords hyperlinked to source websites and are clickable for reference.