Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that generally causes mild, common cold-like symptoms. While RSV can be serious in young children and older adults, it’s usually mild in teens, lasting 7 to 14 days.

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common illness. It’s generally considered a childhood illness since most kids have it before they’re 2 years old.

However, teens and adults can get RSV as well. For most teens, RSV will look and feel like a cold, and they’ll recover in a week or two.

For children under 6 months old, older adults, and people with conditions that weaken their immune system, RSV can lead to more serious illnesses like pneumonia.

RSV is a common virus that causes respiratory symptoms. In most people, RSV is similar to the common cold, lasting 7 to 14 days.

However, for the very young, people over the age of 65, and people with conditions that weaken their immune systems, RSV can be a more serious illness.

RSV affects teens much like it does adults. Unless a teen has another medical condition that weakens the immune system, having RSV will be like having a cold.

People who have RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting the virus. Symptoms of RSV in teens are typical cold symptoms and may include:

Symptoms don’t generally happen all at once, but rather they start in stages, beginning with a runny nose and fever and progressing to respiratory symptoms.

Teens who have wheezing, a high fever, or symptoms that persist for longer than 2 weeks likely need to see a healthcare professional for diagnosis and additional treatment.

You can get RSV from other people who have it or from touching surfaces on which the virus has been deposited. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV can survive for several hours on hard surfaces like counters and tables, and it can survive on soft surfaces like facial tissue or your hands for less time.

The most common ways RSV is spread include:

  • being nearby when a person with RSV coughs or sneezes, and you get droplets from them in your nose, eyes, or mouth
  • kissing someone who has RSV
  • touching surfaces like doorknobs or counters that have live RSV on them and then touching your face

People who have RSV are generally contagious for 3 to 8 days, and they may become contagious 1 to 2 days before their symptoms begin. However, rarely, some people may continue to shed the virus and remain contagious for as long as a month.

You can help prevent the spread of RSV in the same ways you help prevent the spreading of other viruses by doing things like:

  • frequently washing your hands with soap and water
  • avoiding close contact with other people if you have symptoms of RSV
  • cleaning surfaces and things like your mobile devices with disinfecting wipes or soap and water, especially if you have symptoms of RSV
  • covering your mouth with your sleeve, arm, or a tissue when you cough or sneeze if you think you have RSV

There’s no vaccine against RSV in teens currently available.

RSV vaccines are in development for high risk groups: children under 6 months old and older adults. In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the development of two RSV vaccines, and the European Medicines Agency granted permission for the marketing of an RSV vaccine.

Since RSV is generally just like a cold in teens, most of the time, it’s not necessary to have a diagnosis. RSV goes away in 7 to 14 days.

However, for teens who have compromised immune systems or worse RSV infections, RSV is diagnosed in teens the same as it is in individuals of any age.

A doctor may order or perform a nasal swab to see if RSV is present.

If a teen develops more serious respiratory symptoms, a doctor may order imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, to look at the lungs to see if there is evidence of a lung infection like pneumonia.

There is no specific treatment for RSV. For most teens, the only treatment needed may be over-the-counter pain relievers or cold medications to help relieve symptoms. Many teens will need no treatment at all.

Teens with RSV symptoms need to be sure to drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration.

Teens who have RSV usually get better within 7 to 14 days with no treatment.

Additional treatment may be necessary for teens who have weakened immune systems if they develop a more serious lung infection like pneumonia.

RSV is a common virus that causes respiratory symptoms. In most teens, having RSV is like having a cold, and symptoms will last for a week or two.

RSV in teens is similar to RSV in adults, and for most teens, it’s not a serious illness.