Home › Health Topics › Infections & Immunisation > 

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

RSV; bronchiolitis; pneumonia; respiratory; syncytial; virus; viral; wheeze;

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children under the age of 12 months. RSV infections are very common. Almost all children will have had an RSV infection at least once by the time they are two years old.


During their first RSV infection, between 25% and 40% of infants will develop bronchiolitis or pneumonia, but less than 2% will need to be admitted to hospital. Most of those who need admission will be under 6 months old. The children at greatest risk are babies who were born very prematurely, or those with other health problems.

RSV infections can occur at all ages and infections may be severe in elderly people and those with other health problems.

Information about RSV

Department of Health (South Australia)
'Respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) infection' 

Protecting others from RSV

  • There is no vaccine yet for RSV.
  • The infection is most likely to spread in the early days, when it may appear that the child just has a cold (before wheezing starts). Children or adults who are unwell with the early signs of a cold should avoid close contact with babies and young children.
  • Do not send children with the early signs of a cold to child care, pre-school or school, as they may spread the infection to other children.
  • Children or adults who have a cold should not visit frail elderly people or those who are already unwell.
  • Washing hands and cleaning surfaces can help to reduce the spread of the infection. The virus survives for a few hours on surfaces. It will be killed by soap and water, and other disinfectants.
  • Staff at child care centres and pre-schools should ensure that children do not share cups, spoons or other utensils, or toys that they put into their mouths. Toys should be washed after they have been played with.

Further reading 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 'Respiratory Syncytial Virus'.

back to top

The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

Home › Health Topics › Infections & Immunisation >