How Long is RSV Contagious?

A sick young boy wrapped in a blanket sits on the sofa beside a pile of tissues while covering his cough.

How Long Is RSV Contagious? Here’s What You Should Know

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is nearly as common as the common cold and the flu, especially during the colder months, when more time is spent indoors, closer to just about everyone.

Exhibiting symptoms similar to a cold and the flu, RSV leads to about 2.1 million outpatient urgent care and hospital visits yearly for children 5 and under in the United States.

RSV is considered a relatively mild virus for most, but it can and does lead to a number of hospitalizations for those who experience severe symptoms such as shortness of breath.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of RSV, it is important to understand how long RSV is contagious to reduce the risk of passing it on to others, especially infants, babies, and those who are considered immunocompromised.

Let’s discuss RSV in more detail, including the answer to “how long is RSV contagious?”

First, What Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

RSV is short for “respiratory syncytial virus.” It is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and respiratory tract.

RSV most commonly affects babies, children, and the elderly but can be contracted by anyone at any time of year.

It spreads from person to person through the air in infected respiratory droplets and enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. It can also be contracted by direct contact with an infected person.

Most people with RSV recover fully in 1 to 2 weeks after symptom onset.

RSV Symptoms

Symptoms of RSV range from mild to severe and often include

  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • A low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Sneezing

In more severe cases, you may experience

  • High fever
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blueish skin due to lack of oxygen

How Long Is RSV Contagious?

An RSV-infected person is most contagious the first week after symptom onset.

According to the CDC, people infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. However, it is important to know that you may be considered contagious a day or two before you begin to experience symptoms.

In specific instances, especially those that involve infants and the immunocompromised, people can continue to spread the RSV for as long as 4 weeks, even after they have stopped experiencing symptoms.

Complete Care for RSV

Many RSV cases can be managed at home with adequate hydration, rest, and over-the-counter medications to target specific pain and symptoms. Still, you should visit Thibodaux Regional Urgent Care if

  • Your symptoms last longer than a week or worsen as time goes on.
  • OTC medication isn’t helping to relieve symptoms
  • You have other underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system
  • You have a high fever that does not go down with pain medication
  • Your symptoms are severe.
  • You experience difficulty breathing.

Visit us today for the care you need now. Our expert team is here to help with all of your symptoms of RSV or treatment for other illnesses, such as a severe cold or the flu.

No appointments are ever necessary. We are open seven days a week to help you start feeling your best again.

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