No vaccine exists for respiratory syncytial virus. But common-sense precautions can help prevent the spread of this infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Do so particularly before touching your baby, and teach your children the importance of hand-washing.
  • Avoid exposure. Limit your infant's contact with people who have fevers or colds. This is especially important in premature babies and all infants in the first 2 months of life.
  • Keep things clean. Make sure countertops are clean in the kitchen and bathrooms, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Discard used tissues right away.
  • Don't share drinking glasses with others. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label each person's cup.
  • Don't smoke. Infants who are exposed to tobacco smoke have a higher risk of contracting RSV and potentially more severe symptoms. If you do smoke, never do so inside the house or car.
  • Wash toys regularly. Do this especially when your child or a playmate is sick.

Protective medication

The medication palivizumab (Synagis) can help protect children under age 2 who are at high risk of serious complications when they get RSV, such as those born prematurely or with congenital heart or lung disease. The medicine is given monthly for five months during the peak season. The medication isn't helpful in treating respiratory syncytial virus infection once it has developed.

Scientists are working to find a vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus not only in infants but also in older adults and high-risk adults.

Jul. 29, 2011