RSV symptoms can include cyanosis in ‘severe’ cases – other signs to look for


RSV is a common respiratory infection and the leading cause of respiratory illness across the world. Usually it is mild but it can become severe in certain cases – most likely among infants and the elderly. It is also a leading cause of infections like bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children.

If this occurs you should seek immediate medical help.

On darker skin cyanosis may be easier to see on the lips, tongue or gums, under nails, or around your baby’s eyes.

Other symptoms to look for include:

  • Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough or fever
  • Drowsiness
  • Problems feeding or drinking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • If you notice your baby isn’t feeding properly
  • Tiredness and irritation
  • Dry nappy for 12 hours or more
  • A persistent high temperature of 38C or above
  • Long pauses in breath.

“I didn’t know how serious it could get”

Although RSV is usually mild and very common, any child can become seriously ill.


Approximately 30,000 babies and children under five are hospitalised every year in the UK due to RSV.

Mum-of-two Christine Burlison, from Southampton, urged other parents to be more aware of the signs after she mistook the symptoms for a cold when her daughter Aria contracted RSV at just 12 days old.

“When my daughter caught RSV at just over a week old I was really worried because I didn’t know what RSV was and how serious it could get,” she said.

“It is difficult to know what to look out for when you are a first-time mum or don’t know anything about it.”

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“It is important parents trust their instinct in this situation so they can act swiftly and reduce the stress added when your child becomes ill.”

The cost-of-living crisis effect

Professor Harish Nair, professor of paediatric infectious diseases and Global Health, explained: “Cold and damp homes can predispose infants to a number of respiratory illnesses, such as wheezing, asthma, bronchiolitis and pneumonia including those due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“With the cost of living increasing and many families likely to find it difficult to heat their homes this winter, children’s vulnerability to illness could be increased and this could impact the number of RSV cases significantly bringing extra strain on the NHS.

“It’s essential parents understand what RSV is and how to protect their children against it. Parents can provide some protection to their children by frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces and toys.”



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