When should I call 911 or my baby’s pediatrician while he has RSV?

Symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can worsen rapidly in some children. Call your doctor if your child has any of the following symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing (rapid breathing, gasping for breath)
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Blue or gray skin color
Iris Rodriguez-Johnson, MD

If the baby’s muscle between its ribs is moving, its nose is flaring, the baby is breathing very rapidly and having a hard time breathing it is time to call 911. This means the baby is in respiratory distress and is in need for air.

RSV stands for respiratory syncitial virus.  This viral illness can cause a baby to produce so much mucous that breathing might become difficult. While many babies can handle RSV like a common cold, other babies can get very sick.  These are some of the symptoms that should prompt urgent care:  Breathing very fast (greater than 60 breaths in 60 seconds), working hard to breath (which might include using abdominal muscles and neck muscles to move air in and out of the lungs), turning blue (also called cyanosis), extreme fatigue, inability to eat or drink due to congestion.  These symptoms suggest a very urgent situation.

Call 911 or your local ambulance service right away if your baby:

- Is so weak and tired that he hardly responds to you

- Is working very hard to breathe or finds it hard to take a breath.

- Grunts when he breathes.

- Has chest retractions (skin pulling in around the ribs and chest when breathing).

- Has a blue or dark purple color to the nail beds, lips or gums.

- Stops breathing for more than 10 seconds.

- Cannot speak while trying to breathe.

- Has any breathing problem that needs care right away.


Call your baby’s pediatrician if your baby:

Does not smile or show interest in play for at least a few minutes during a four-hour period.

Wheezes or breathes harder than he did when he was seen by the pediatrician.

Is unable to breathe and suck at the same time or chokes when he sucks.

Has any fever and is less than 3 months old, or has a fever lasting longer than three days in older babies.

Cannot be calmed for at least a few minutes each hour using methods that usually work for your baby, such as holding, rocking, pacifiers or soothing talk.


Also call the pediatrician if you:

See signs of dehydration (drying out):

- No urine in six to eight hours in a baby less than 1 year of age

- No urine in more than eight hours in a baby or child older than 1 year of age

- No tears when crying

- Sunken eyes

- Dry lips and mouth

Have any questions or concerns about how your baby looks or feels.

Continue Learning about Viral Lung Infections

Viral Lung Infections

Viral Lung Infections

Viral lung infections include acute bronchitis, viral pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These viral lung infections usually begin as a respiratory virus that spreads to the lungs. Chest pain, chronic ...

coughing, fever and fatigue are common with bronchitis. This infection cannot be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia presents with a host of symptoms including coughing, fatigue, fever, aches and pains, and GI symptoms. While antibiotics are not indicated for pneumonia, some antiviral medications can help. Infants can develop both bronchiolitis and RSV at a young age, causing coughing and wheezing.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.