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Most children have had RSV by the time they are 2 years old, but many parents might not even realize it. That’s because RSV symptoms are very much like the symptoms of a mild-to-severe cold: runny nose, cough, mild fever, and sore throat. Infants with RSV also might have less appetite than usual and be tired or fussy. Sometimes, because congestion is heavy, infants can’t feed very well, and they may become dehydrated (have a lower than normal amount of fluids in the body). Most people will have symptoms about four to six days after being exposed to the virus.

However, RSV can be particularly dangerous in premature infants and in children with congenital heart disease or chronic lung disease, because the infection can develop into life-threatening pneumonia. It can also be dangerous for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Most people with RSV cold-like symptoms do not necessarily need to visit a healthcare provider. But if you or your child have any of the following symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Episodes of sleep apnea (when breathing stops for a short time)
  • Wheezing that can be heard
  • High fever
  • Cough with green or yellow mucus

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Last Updated December 01, 2008