Corticosteroid medicines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection

Corticosteroid medicines are not used to treat respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection as often as they were in the past because there is no consistent evidence that supports their effectiveness for this purpose. This medicine may be used if a child has an RSV infection and also has asthma or an allergic-type breathing problem.

Results of a recent study indicate that a dose of dexamethasone, a type of corticosteroid, may help relieve symptoms of bronchiolitis in children who are otherwise healthy.1 This may help prevent them from being hospitalized. Further study is needed to fully explore the possibility that other medicines with fewer side effects may provide the same benefits as dexamethasone. Because dexamethasone is a potent corticosteroid, side effects such as nausea, muscle weakness, or joint pain may occur more frequently than with other medicines.

Corticosteroid medicines are not routinely used for infants 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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