Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) affects nearly all children before their second birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In most kids, this viral infection causes only mild cold-like symptoms, such as sore throat, cough and low-grade fever. However, some children, especially premature infants or those with underlying health conditions, suffer more severe respiratory complications, such as breathing difficulty, that require prompt medical treatment. Most babies recover from mild cases without any special treatment, but you can keep your baby more comfortable and reduce the risk of complications with simple precautions.
Offer fluids to keep your baby hydrated. Encourage fluid intake by breastfeeding or bottle feeding as you would normally, to avoid dehydration from poor fluid intake and fever. If your baby resists drinking, as he might if he doesn't feel well, offer smaller amounts of fluid more frequently.
Run a cool mist humidifier to keep the air moist. Breathing moist air helps keep his lungs clear, because it keeps secretions thin so he can cough them up more easily. Clean the humidifier daily, to avoid mold, according to Kids Health.
Remove nasal secretions. Your baby can't blow his nose to keep it clear of secretions, which make it harder to breathe. If he has copious nasal secretions, remove them using a bulb syringe. Depress the bulb, gently insert the tip into the outermost part of the nares and release the bulb to draw out secretions. If secretions are hard and crusty, put several drops of saline solution in the nares before using the nasal bulb syringe.
Place your baby in a no-smoking zone. Don't let anyone smoke around your baby. Smoke can irritate his lungs further and make it harder for him to breathe.
Place him in an upright position. Because upper airway congestion might make it harder for your baby to breathe, he might feel better and breathe easier if you keep him upright. Sit him in his infant or car seat, or hold him up over your shoulder when awake. At night, elevate the head of his bed around 3 inches by placing an item under his mattress to raise it up, MayoClinic.com recommends.
Watch for signs of worsening and see your pediatrician promptly if your baby seems sicker. Check his fever and assess for increased lethargy or irritability, complete refusal of fluids or signs that he's having a hard time breathing, such as audible wheezing or very rapid breathing.
Antibiotics won't help cure RSV, since it's a viral, not a bacterial infection, so don't plead with your doctor for antibiotics.
Avoid hot steam humidifiers, which can dry out the air and make it harder, rather than easier for your baby to breathe, and also pose a scalding hazard.
Never give an infant aspirin for fever or discomfort. Use either acetaminophen or other pain relievers suggested by his pediatrician. Aspirin can increase the risk of Reye's syndrome, a serious complication of viral infection.