Medicines to treat complications of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection

Treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) complications include:

  • Ribavirin, an antiviral medicine. This treatment is rarely used. It has not shown consistent effectiveness and may make RSV and its complications worse in some people. But it may be considered for people at high risk for bronchiolitis or pneumonia that can develop as complications of RSV. Your doctor will consider your medical history and particular circumstances before making a recommendation about ribavirin.
  • Bronchodilators, if your child has a lower respiratory RSV infection and difficulty breathing.
  • Corticosteroid medicines , which are given in rare cases to children with RSV infection who also have asthma or chronic allergic-type breathing problems. One study has found that dexamethasone, a strong corticosteroid, may help some otherwise healthy children who develop bronchiolitis, a complication of RSV.1
  • Antibiotics , which are used to treat secondary bacterial infections associated with RSV infection.


  1. Schuh S, et al. (2002). Efficacy of oral dexamethasone in outpatients with acute bronchiolitis. Journal of Pediatrics, 140: 27–32.

Last Updated: July 16, 2008

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