Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?

  • What is RSV?

    RSV is a common and contagious respiratory virus that usually causes mild symptoms but can be dangerous in certain adults, including older adults and adults with certain underlying conditions.

  • What are symptoms of RSV?

    RSV can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, and tiredness. While most RSV symptoms are mild, in more severe RSV infections, shortness of breath or trouble breathing can occur.

  • If I get RSV, how long am I contagious?

    People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. However, some adults with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.

  • I thought RSV only affected babies. Can adults get RSV?

    Anyone can get RSV. There is an increased risk for severe disease in older adults and adults with certain underlying chronic conditions.

  • How serious is RSV for adults?

    RSV is a common, contagious respiratory virus that is usually mild but can severely impact older adults and adults with certain underlying chronic conditions.

  • If I’m healthy, do I need to be worried about RSV?

    Being an older adult can put you at increased risk for severe complications due to RSV, even if you’re healthy.

  • How can I be tested for RSV?

    There are various types of tests for RSV. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.

  • Is there a specific time of year that RSV is more common?

    RSV infections commonly begin to occur during the fall, peak in the winter, and subside during the spring in most regions of the US.

  • How can I prevent RSV?

    Some ways you can help prevent RSV infection are to:

    • Wash your hands
    • Keep your hands off your face
    • Avoid close contact with sick people
    • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces around you
    • Stay home when you’re feeling sick

RSV and Underlying Conditions

Questions to ask your doctor about RSV

Here are some helpful questions you may want to ask your doctor. Review the questions below that most relate to you for your next appointment.

  • As an older adult or an adult with an underlying condition, should I be concerned about RSV?
  • What is my risk of complications due to RSV?
  • How could RSV impact my underlying condition?
  • Is there a test for RSV?
  • What can I do to feel better if I get RSV?
  • How long should I isolate if I’m infected with RSV?
  • What can I do to help prevent RSV?

Visiting your doctor to discuss RSV?

To get the most out of your appointment, remember to:


  • Write down your questions.
  • Take notes or have someone with you to help listen.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your health is
    a top priority.

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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