RSV in children

RS-virus hos barn - engelska

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) infections are very common. Most children who get it will have cold-like symptoms. Some children may become very ill and need hospital care.

RSV is most common in autumn and winter.

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An RSV infection may seem like a common cold. However, children less than six months old can become very ill. It often takes several weeks for the child to recover.

These are usually the first symptoms of RSV:

  • The child has the sniffles and a stuffy nose.
  • The child has a fever.
  • The child has difficulty nursing, eating or drinking. The child becomes tired easily.

During the first few days, some children become very ill. They may have difficulty breathing. This can be seen in the following ways:

  • The child is breathing quickly.
  • The child’s stomach moves in and out when they are breathing.
  • The child seems to be struggling to breathe.

Some children may have pauses in their breathing. In such cases, the child stops breathing altogether for short periods.

Severe cough

RSV can cause a severe cough. It may start a few days after the first symptoms appear. The child may cough a lot for several weeks.

When and where should I seek treatment?

Most people with RSV do not need medical care. The illness usually goes away on its own.

Contact a vårdcentral (healthcare centre) immediately if any of the following applies:

  • The child is less than 3 months old and has a fever.
  • The child is having difficulty breathing.
  • The child cannot nurse, drink or eat.

If the vårdcentral is closed or cannot attend to you, you should seek care from an emergency department.

If urgent care is needed

If your child has pauses in their breathing, call 112 immediately.

Call 1177 for advice

Call 1177 for help on what to do. Your call will be answered by a nurse. If needed, they can tell you where to go for treatment.

The nurses speak Swedish and English. Help is sometimes available in other languages.

Call +46 771 11 77 00 if you are calling from a phone with a foreign number.

How can I help my child at home?

Here is how you can help a child who is ill:

  • Give your child nasal spray or nose drops with saline. This will help if your child has a stuffy nose.
  • Use a special suction bulb to remove mucus from their nose. These are available pharmacies.
  • Raise your child’s head higher than the rest of their body when they sleep. You can do this with using extra pillows.
  • Give your child fluids often. For example, you can nurse or give formula more often than usual.
  • Feed your child more often than usual if they cannot eat very much at a time.
  • Give your child fever-reducing medicine if they are feeling very poorly due to fever. Ask your pharmacist which one to use. Talk to a doctor first if your child is less than six months old.

How is RSV transmitted?

RSV is usually transmitted when a person with the illness sneezes or coughs. Small droplets with the virus are formed. You can get infected if you get these droplets in your body. 

RSV can also be transmitted when you touch a person who has the virus on them, for example by holding their hand. The virus can then get in your mouth or nose if you touch your face with your hands.

You can reduce your risk of RSV

Here is how you can reduce the risk of getting RSV:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Keep your distance from other people, especially when indoors.
  • Avoid contact with people who have a cold.
  • Choose activities with others where you meet outdoors.

Some children become seriously ill

The risk of becoming seriously ill from RSV is greater if any of the following are true:

  • The child is less than three months old.
  • The child is less than one year old and was born more than five weeks prematurely.
  • The child has a disease of the heart, lungs or nervous system, for example.

It is particularly important to protect children at risk of becoming seriously ill.


A child who becomes very ill may need hospital care. At the hospital, the child will be given fluids and nourishment.

If the child is having difficulty breathing, they will be given help with this.

Medicine to prevent the virus

There is a medicine that prevents the virus from making a child very ill. It is given by a healthcare professional. A child who is at risk of becoming seriously ill from RSV may need this medicine.

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