DECODE!   Save Your Health With us !


Adults and RSV: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

5 Mins read
Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection

RSV is a respiratory virus that usually results in mild cold-like symptoms. However, in severe cases, it can cause lower respiratory illness, such as lung or respiratory tract infections. It commonly affects babies, and due to this, children’s hospitalizations have expanded. 

However, it’s a common misinterpretation that RSV always causes mild respiratory illness in grown-ups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, it induces approximately 60,000 to 120,000 hospitalizations and 6,000 to 10,000 deaths among adults who are more than 65 years old.

Thus, RSV symptoms in adults can be mild and severe, such as cold and fever. Some self-care measures are helpful to get relief from these symptoms.

In this blog, I will discuss those self-care steps, RSV causes, common symptoms, diagnosis methods, and treatments. But before diving deeper, let’s understand what RSV stands for and what exactly it is.

What is RSV?

RSV means Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It is a contagious respiratory virus that commonly causes mild colds. It is more common in babies and older adults. Moreover, it significantly affects those who have weak immune systems.

Common RSV Symptoms in Adults

After exposure to the virus, symptoms of this viral infection generally appear after 4 to 6 days. In adults, RSV commonly causes mild cold-like symptoms.

It may include:

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Dry cough
  • Painful throat
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sneezing
  • Headache

person coughing, sneezing, or fever

Severe RSV Symptoms in Adults

In severe cases, RSV infection can spread to the lower respiratory tract and can cause bronchiolitis (irritation of small airways that lead to lungs) and pneumonia.

It can appear through the following symptoms:

  • Severe cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in breathing or rapid breathing, the person may prefer sitting up instead of lying down
  • Bluish Colour skin due to oxygen deficiency 
  • Wheezing, a high-pitched sound that appears while breathing out

What are the Causes of RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus can come into our body through the mouth, eyes, or nose. When respiratory droplets become infected, it spreads quickly through the air. Thus, you can easily get infected if someone with RSV sneezes or coughs close to you.

Photo of places where RSV transmission can happen

Additionally, the virus can spread by direct touch, such as hand-to-hand contact. Also, on hard surfaces like cot rails, kitchen countertops, etc, the virus can survive for hours. If you come in contact with such contaminated surfaces, then touch your nose, mouth, and eye, and you could quickly get infected.

Moreover, the virus can spread for up to four weeks in people with weak immunity systems, despite the fact that the first week is a more contagious period for an infected person.

How is RSV Diagnosed?

To diagnose RSV symptoms in adults, a healthcare provider may take the following steps,

  • A doctor may review your medical history to learn more about your symptoms.
  • A healthcare provider may check your lungs using a stethoscope to identify the illness. 
  • With the help of pulse oximeters, they may check your oxygen level; it’s also called a finger monitoring test.
medical equipment used in the diagnosis of RSV

For use on the BD MAX™ Molecular Diagnostic System, the combination test uses a single nasal swab or a single nasopharyngeal swab sample to identify and distinguish if a patient has COVID-19, the flu, RSV or some combination of the three, with results available in as little as two hours.

  • A healthcare provider may also perform a swab test to detect the virus. For this, your doctor will collect mucus from your mouth or nose using a cotton swab. 
  • Generally, by performing these tests, the RSV virus can be detected. However, your provider may also order other tests (X-rays, CT scans) to check your lungs if he suspects severe illness.

Management and Treatment of RSV

In most cases, mild RSV symptoms in adults (such as cold) do not require any treatment. It often goes away on its own after 1 to 2 weeks. Some home remedies can help you feel better in the treatment of mild respiratory syncytial virus. 

It may include:

  • Eat regularly and drink fluids to stay healthy even though you have a low appetite.
  • You can take over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat pain or fever. However, it would help if you did not take any treatment on your own. It’s always advisable to consult with your doctor before starting any medications.
  • You should not smoke tobacco products or vaping.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • If your doctor recommends soothing dry breathing passages, you can use a cool mist vaporizer.
  • In order to lose the mucus in your nose, you can apply saline nasal.
  • To keep your nasal airways open, blow your nose in a tissue.

However, in severe cases, like if you develop pneumonia or bronchiolitis, have trouble breathing, etc, treatments are different.

It may include:

  • To help your body fight the virus, your doctor may prescribe medications like antivirals.
  • Due to trouble breathing, you might get relief by using an oxygen mask or through a breathing machine (ventilator).
  • To stay hydrated, doctors may use fluid injection into your body through an intravenous method that goes into a vein in your arm.
  • Doctors may use a thin tube to clear mucus from your airways. It helps in removing foreign particles from mucus.

How to Prevent Spreading RSV?

According to a trusted source, there are some preventive measures to stop or avoid the spread of respiratory syncytial virus or other seasonal illnesses. 

Here are the recommended self-care methods:

  • It is advisable to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. If you can’t do so, or after being in public places, you can also use a sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you are 60 or more years old, you can get preventive treatment for RSV in the form of vaccination.
  • Try to avoid touching your face even when you think your hands are pretty clean because viruses can spread quickly in this way.
  • Use virus-killing disinfectant in a home to clean the commonly used surfaces. 
  • You should stay home if you are unwell or especially if you have a fever and for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away.
  • Sneeze or Cough onto the tissue or cover your mouth inside of your elbow.

Photo of people avoiding close contact

  • In public places, you should stay six feet apart from people or from those who are sick.
  • Avoid touching, kissing, hugging, or sharing personal items with those who have respiratory syncytial infection.


In conclusion, RSV infection and its potential impact on adults should not be underestimated. 

Understanding its symptoms, causes and preventive measures is crucial. By staying informed, we can significantly reduce the risk of infection. 

Also, there is no specific treatment for RSV. However, ongoing research into vaccines and antiviral therapies offers hope for a future where we can more effectively prevent RSV symptoms in adults. 

Furthermore, if you or your loved one experiences severe symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Long Will RSV Symptoms Last?

Commonly, RSV symptoms last for 1 to 2 weeks. However, the duration of symptoms can be longer or shorter. It depends on the individual’s age and overall health. Infants, older adults, or those with weakened immune systems may experience more prolonged symptoms.

  • When is the Peak Season for RSV Infection?

RSV infections commonly have a seasonal pattern. Also, the peak season may vary by location. For example, in temperate climates, respiratory syncytial virus infections often peak during the fall and winter months (from November to April).

  • Is RSV Contagious?

Yes, the Respiratory Syncytial Virus is highly contagious. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus spreads through respiratory droplets. Moreover, it can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face.

  • Can I Get RSV Twice? 

Yes, it is possible to get RSV more than once. It is a virus, and like many viruses, it can infect the same person multiple times over their lifetime. However, reinfections with respiratory syncytial virus are commonly not as severe as the first infection.

  • Is There a Cure for RSV?

There is no specific cure for RSV. It’s a viral infection, and like many other viruses, it can not be treated with antibiotics. Instead, it can be managed by supportive care such as rest, staying hydrated, etc.


The health information provided here is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before any medical treatment.

11 posts

About author
Hello, I am Naveen, a versatile freelance content writer. My journey led me through various niches, but health writing is where my heart is. I aim to create content that empowers and informs my readers about their health choices. When I am not writing, you will find me busy exploring new skills. Follow me on LinkedIn
Related posts

Unlock the Secrets to Stay Hydrated in Winter

6 Mins read
Have you ever thought about why staying hydrated in winter is so important? You might also assume that the need for liquids…

Understanding Factors that Causes Diabetes in Children and Teens

5 Mins read
Diabetes, a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, is not limited to adults; it affects a growing number of children and…

Parasitic Infection: Symptoms in Adults

5 Mins read
Parasitic infections, though often associated with tropical regions, can affect anyone, regardless of location or lifestyle. These silent invaders find their way…
Get Daily Health Tips with SHN

Keep informed by subscribing to regular newsletters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *