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RSV and Synagis


What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that causes a lung infection called bronchiolitis. RSV is highly contagious. Two out of three infants are infected with RSV during their first year of life. It is spread by contact with infected fluids from the nose or mouth and through droplets in the air from coughing. RSV usually occurs in the wintertime.

Usually, RSV causes mild symptoms, such as a runny nose and fever. But premature babies or those with lung or heart problems have a higher risk of getting very sick if they catch RSV.

A vaccine is not yet available for RSV.

What is Synagis?

Synagis is a medicine that helps prevent serious lung infections caused by RSV. Synagis is an antibody that is made using DNA technology. Full-term babies get virus-fighting substances called antibodies from their mothers during pregnancy. These antibodies help to fight RSV and other viruses. But babies born prematurely often do not get enough of these antibodies before birth.

This medicine is not a treatment for children who already have RSV.

Should my child get Synagis?

This medicine is given only to children under 2 years old at high risk for serious complications if they should get RSV. These children include:

  • some premature infants who were born early by 5 weeks or more
  • children with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a lung disease that causes babies to need extra oxygen because the lungs do not work properly
  • children with other conditions that put them in a high-risk group.

Depending on the time of year of the babies’ birth, the seriousness of the lung disease or high-risk condition, babies will receive between 1 and 5 doses of Synagis. Synagis should not be given to children who have previously had a severe allergic reaction to Synagis. Check with your healthcare provider if you have questions about whether your child should receive Synagis.

How is Synagis given?

Synagis is given by injection into the leg muscle. Your child should get the Synagis shot every month throughout the winter and early spring. Synagis may be given with other routine immunizations.

What are the side effects of Synagis?

The place where the shot was given may become red or tender. Your child has a slight risk of vomiting or having diarrhea. Rarely, children develop cold symptoms, an ear infection, rash, pain, or sore throat. There is a small risk that the medicine could cause an allergic reaction.

How can I learn more?

Ask your healthcare provider about Synagis. He or she can give you the package insert or suggest other sources of information.


Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-09
Last reviewed: 2010-10-13

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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