November 17, 2022

How to Tell if Your Baby Has a Cold or RSV


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)! It’s a hot new topic these days, and everyone is panicking.


  • Is it the new COVID?
  • Should we go back into quarantine?
  • Is it time to wash our groceries and mail? 
  • Is there a test you can give my kid to know?
  • When should I be really concerned?


Pediatricians have been battling RSV for as long as we have been in practice.


The short answer is no. RSV is not a new virus.  This year is a particularly tough RSV year, mostly because it reared its ugly head early. One of the questions we’ve been getting is- “How do I know if my baby has RSV or a cold?” The truth is- you may not know the difference between the two, and honestly, you don’t have to. RSV, like most viruses, can be very mild and is one of the many viruses that can cause a “cold” or upper respiratory infection. Most infants and children will just have mild congestion, a dry cough, and low-grade fever. Unfortunately, in younger infants and children with more complicated medical histories, RSV can be more severe. It often starts looking like a regular cold but progresses over four to five days.


When to Call the Office


Children with more severe RSV will have frequent coughing, and fever, breathe quickly, and have increased work of breathing which looks like the belly moving up and down and their nostrils flaring. Often these babies will be breathing so quickly that they cannot eat enough to stay hydrated or they vomit most of what they are eating. If your infant or child is in that condition, please get in touch with our office ASAP. Whether or not it is RSV, any child in distress is an urgent medical situation that needs to be managed by our team. 


How Can You Tell it is RSV

We can test for RSV in the office via rapid test. There is no specific way you can differentiate between RSV and the common cold at home, especially in the first few days of illness. But if the cold seems to be taking a more serious turn, there’s a good chance it is RSV. Please feel free to reach out if you are concerned your child is suffering from a severe case of RSV- we are here to support you and answer your questions.

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