Treatment for respiratory syncytial virus generally involves self-care measures to make your child more comfortable (supportive care). But hospital care may be needed if severe symptoms occur.
Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to reduce fever. Frequent use of nasal saline drops and suctioning can help clear a stuffy nose. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if there's a bacterial complication, such as bacterial pneumonia.
Keep your child as comfortable as possible. Offer plenty of fluids and watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, little to no urine output, sunken eyes, and extreme fussiness or sleepiness.
If the RSV infection is severe, a hospital stay may be necessary. Treatments at the hospital may include:
Intravenous (IV) fluids
Mechanical ventilation (breathing machine)
The doctor may recommend an inhaled form of an antiviral medicine called ribavirin (Virazole) for people with very weakened immune systems (immunocompromised).
An inhaler (bronchodilator) or steroids are not proved to be helpful in treating RSV infection.
Lifestyle and home remedies
You may not be able to shorten the length of a respiratory syncytial virus infection, but you can try to relieve some signs and symptoms.
If your child has RSV, do your best to comfort or distract him or her — cuddle, read a book or play a quiet game. Other tips for relieving symptoms are:
Create moist air to breathe. Keep the room warm but not overheated. If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds. An ideal indoor humidity is around 50 percent.
Drink fluids. Keep a steady supply of cool water at the bedside. Offer warm fluids, such as soup, which may help loosen thickened secretions. Ice pops may be soothing as well. Continue breast-feeding or bottle-feeding your infant as you would normally.
Try saline nasal drops. Over-the-counter (OTC) drops are a safe, effective way to ease congestion, even for young children. Drip several drops into one nostril to loosen hardened or thick mucus, then immediately suction that nostril, using a bulb syringe. Repeat the process in the other nostril. Do this before feedings and before putting your baby to sleep.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers. OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help reduce fever and relieve a sore throat. Ask a doctor for the correct dose for your child's age.
Stay away from cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke can aggravate symptoms.