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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Trusted health information when you need it

What is RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) Virus is a common, highly contagious virus that can cause cold and flu like symptoms. The severity ranges from mild, clearing up in one to two weeks, to more serious illness resulting in hospitalization and even death. Outbreaks can happen any time of year but are more common in fall and winter.

Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

Who is most vulnerable?

Older adults, young babies, and immunocompromised individuals are most at risk of serious illness. Reduce the risk of spreading all airborne illnesses by practicing good respiratory hygiene. Washing hands often, physical distancing, wearing a mask when necessary, and staying home and away from vulnerable people when sick are all important things to remember.

How do I know my symptoms are RSV?

RSV testing and diagnosis is only available from a doctor or hospital. There are no home tests. Because the symptoms are very similar to colds, flus, and COVID-19, it is hard to distinguish.

Visit our London Drugs Bettercare magazine article Avoiding Winter Illnesses online or in store to read about how the symptoms of these illnesses compare.

How can I treat RSV symptoms?

There are no medications yet to target and cure RSV infections but there are products that can help relieve symptoms. Over-the-counter or non-prescription pain relievers, fever reducers, and cough medicines can be helpful. Speak to a London Drugs pharmacist for advice about which medications are recommended and safe for you.

Is there a vaccine?

Yes! A new RSV vaccine for adults 60 years and over has been approved by Health Canada. Other vaccine producers have also applied for approval and results are pending. RSV vaccines are not part of public, free government vaccination programs yet, because they are very new, but many private insurance providers do help to cover the costs.

The available vaccine has been found to be over 82% effective at preventing lower respiratory tract disease in older adults and over 84% effective for those with underlying medical conditions. This potentially keeps many people safe from serious illness.

Ask your London Drugs pharmacist for more information about RSV vaccine and availability or use our booking button to reserve your vaccination now.

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