RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)

RSV is currently spreading across New Zealand. It is a common winter virus that affects people of all ages, but can be very serious for young babies.

Most adults and older children with RSV will experience symptoms similar to the common cold, including:

  • a runny nose 
  • coughing or sneezing
  • fever 
  • wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • loss of appetite or difficulty feeding due to breathlessness.

Signs your baby needs medical care

Young babies, those born prematurely and children with underlying health issues can become very sick from RSV and may require urgent hospitalisation.  

If you are concerned about pēpi/baby, especially if they show any of these signs, take them to a doctor, after hours care centre, or the emergency department immediately so they can receive the care they need.

  • Audible wheezing sounds
  • Breathing very fast
  • Laboured breathing — the ribs seem to suck inward when the child breathes in
  • Seems very unwell
  • Sluggish or lethargic.

 Call 111 if your child:  

  • has blue lips and tongue 
  • has severe difficulty breathing 
  • is becoming very sleepy and not easy to wake up
  • is very pale or
  • is floppy
  • is struggling to feed. 


RSV can affect people of all ages. Most cases are mild and can be treated with rest at home.

Staying home, getting lots of rest and ensuring you drink plenty of fluids can help ease the symptoms.

Hospital treatment for RSV is focused on helping children with their breathing (for example, giving them oxygen) and feeding (for example, administering fluids through a feeding tube). 

RSV and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses. If you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold or loss of smell, with or without fever, stay at home and call your doctor or Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 to see if you need a test for COVID-19. 

Preventing the spread

As RSV is highly contagious, it’s important to:

  • Stay home and stay away from toddlers and babies if you are sick. 
  • If your child or baby is sick, keep them away from childcare centres or school until their symptoms have resolved. 
  • Practice social distancing and wash or sanitise hands regularly.

If at all possible, if you have a newborn or young baby at home, keep older children away from early childcare centres.