Being an older adult can put you at increased risk for severe infections from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

If you’re an older adult, RSV could cut your plans short.

While you may be doing everything you can to stay healthy, the immune system typically weakens with older age and has a harder time fighting off infections, such as those from RSV.

While RSV infections are typically mild, there is still a possibility it could pose a severe impact, especially in older adults. Part of that severe impact is that RSV infection can cause serious complications such as pneumonia or exacerbation of congestive heart failure (CHF), asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in older adults. RSV can cause severe infections that may lead to hospitalization in adults aged 60 and older, and adults with certain underlying conditions like asthma, COPD, and CHF.

True or false: Only babies can contract RSV.

False. Anyone can get RSV.

Did you know? 

In the US, approximately 177,000 hospitalizations in adults 65 years and older due to RSV are reported each year. Of those hospitalizations, an estimated 14,000 cases result in death.

Did you know? In the US, approximately 177,000 hospitalizations in adults 65 years and older due to RSV are reported each year. Of those hospitalizations, an estimated 14,000 cases result in death.

Watch Debbie’s story about surviving RSV

Learn what happened when Debbie was diagnosed with RSV.

“When the ER doctor told me I had RSV, the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘But I’m an adult!’ I had no idea that an adult could get RSV.”


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    RSV infection in older adults typically causes mild cold-like symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, cough, and headache. But, in older adults RSV can sometimes be severe, causing hospitalization and in some cases, death. Debbie is a patient advocate and survivor of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This is her experience; others’ experiences with RSV may be different. Debbie has an underlying medical condition that may have put her at increased risk for severe RSV infection. Debbie is not a healthcare provider. She was compensated by GSK for her participation in this program.


    One day, I was babysitting my two-year old grandson who had a cold, or so we thought, and it was a few days after that that I got sick with a high fever, a nasty cough, and I just didn’t feel right. I went to the local ER. When the ER doctor told me I had RSV, the first thing out of my mouth was, “But, I’m an adult!” I had no idea that an adult could get RSV.

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    Debbie’s RSV story


    When I called my primary care physician, I was told that I had a virus and that there was no treatment for it. I was told to ride out the symptoms and to buy an over-the-counter cough medication for my cough. I know for a lot of people RSV can be pretty mild, but for me it was pretty severe. My fever was going up, 102, 102.5. The cough was uncontrollable. I coughed morning, noon, and night.

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    RSV is usually mild, though in older adults, it can sometimes be severe.


    There were days I rarely got up out of that bed. Brush my teeth, brush my hair— wasn’t going to happen. It was a devastating time for me. It was a time when for the first time in my life I felt old. I missed out on so many activities at my church, with my grandson’s school, and I could no longer be the independent woman that I was. There were days that, I was so sick I honestly thought, “This was it.”

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    Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two.


    The first two months with RSV were very difficult. The next two months I started feeling better. My fever went away, and the cough was still there, but it wasn’t as persistent, and finally, after four months, I could honestly say that I was over RSV. I just want to share that I am so very, very grateful every day that I got through it. I want older adults to know that RSV can be a very serious disease. I would not want anyone to go through what I went through.

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    (GSK logo) Intended for US audiences only. Trademarks are owned by or licensed to the GSK group of companies. 2022 GSK or licensor. RSAVID220006 November 2022 Produced in USA

Are you over the age of 60 and interested in sharing your RSV story?* If you, or someone close to you, have been diagnosed with RSV, we would love to hear from you. Your story could be used to raise awareness of RSV with both patients and healthcare professionals. If you are interested in sharing your story, please email us at

*Not everyone who contacts us will be selected to participate.

RSV infection can be serious. Fortunately, vaccination is available. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about vaccination and other ways to protect yourself and others from RSV.

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