Have you seen these posts running around Facebook? These fear mongering posts about “DON’T KISS MY BABY!!” And then pictures of severely ill children in the pediatric ICU?

These posts drive me nuts.

This is not one of those posts.

RSV is a virus. It stands for respiratory syncytial virus. Most kids do really well with it and don’t need to be hospitalized. There are a few kids who need extra support like breathing treatments or steroids. There are a few more kids who unfortunately cannot tolerate RSV at all and it can become deadly. These kids are usually immunocompromised to begin with or have reactive airway disease already as a child or a preemie baby.

The older you get the more tolerant you are to RSV. In fact, a myth is that adults and older children don’t get RSV. That’s not true. We do get RSV but it’s just a cold for us. OR we’ve already been exposed as a kid and we are tolerant to the virus. We can still pass it on to others though.

RSV IS a virus. There is not a cure or treatment for it. We only treat the symptoms or “symptomatic and supportive care.” If they need rehydration we give fluids. If they need oxygen we give oxygen.

The only reason we really test kids for RSV is to rule out bacterial causes of fever and illness. For example, if we just assume a fever is caused by RSV we could be missing a urinary tract infection or strep throat which ARE treatable with antibiotics. Also, it helps us identify those kids who might need extra help fighting the virus.

Here’s what gets my goat. Influenza is also a virus. Kids can also get influenza. Influenza can be just as dangerous to babies. Influenza can put kids in the ICU too. Influenza kills people. BUT YOU CAN VACCINATE AGAINST INFLUENZA!! And the same people who are all like “DON’T KISS MY BABY!” Some probably didn’t get their flu shot either.

Here’s also what drives me bananas. RSV does not live on the lips and faces of well
meaning relatives. Weirdo Great Aunt Becky isn’t trying to give your kid RSV when she kisses your baby.

The baby is more likely to get RSV and all other viruses from the shopping cart you didn’t clean off.

The baby is more likely to get RSV from childcare or their toddler cousin.

The baby is more likely to get RSV from going in public.

The baby is more likely to get RSV from the doctors office.

The baby is more likely to get RSV from YOU NOT WASHING YOUR HANDS and kissing YOUR OWN BABY!

But they are also equally as likely to get any other virus from anywhere else viruses live.

Also – I don’t want to brush past that. Do you think great Aunt Becky is the only one with RSV living on her lips just waiting to give your newborn the kiss of death? NO! Do you kiss your newborn? Like everyday? Like multiple times a day? YES YOU DO! More likely to catch something from you. Just being honest.

So get your flu shot. Wash you hands. Stay home during flu season. Quit passing the baby around the room at winter get togethers. Don’t let them suck on the shopping cart. Wash your hands some more. Expect your kid to get an insane amount of viruses and runny noses and coughs between November and May. Take kids to get their flu shot. Immunize your kids.

If your kid gets RSV, don’t panic. MOST KIDS DO JUST FINE without hospitalization. My son has tested positive for RSV twice and influenza twice. He did fine at home all four times and proceeded to give it to our entire family.

And to Great Aunt Becky – don’t kiss babies. Not only because you could potentially give them a virus but also because THATS WEIRD TO KISS OTHER PEOPLES BABIES. Full stop.




  1. January 4, 2020 / 6:57 am

    Why is it weird to want to kiss your great niece or great nephew? I am a Mum, Aunty many times over, a Granny and a great Aunty to 13 children, now ranging from 11 to 27. It would have been weird for me not to kiss them. I still do ( and they kiss me) even though they’re now not babies Perhaps we do things differently in the UK?

  2. DebMac
    January 4, 2020 / 8:17 pm

    No, it really isn’t weird for Great Aunt Whomever to want to kiss a baby. You’ve worked in a nursing home and know how older people love babies. Many other cultures are very physically affectionate. And yes, adults do get terribly sick with RSV. 30 some years ago, a co-worker, her baby and I traded it back and forth for 3 months and in my early 30’s, I was the sickest of all. Baby did fine but I missed days of work with it. As you said, sensible precautions will eliminate many problems but children will get sick.

  3. Gayle Shumaker
    January 4, 2020 / 8:52 pm

    Please, please add to your blog for adults to get their Tdap immunization. 42 years have gone by and I still remember the baby I cared for while in nursing school that had pertussis. Unfortunately she became a statistic.
    Thank you.

  4. Carolyn Sullivan
    January 4, 2020 / 11:51 pm

    OH I love it. OUR Great Grandbaby was in town over Christmas… and the Don’t kiss my baby attitude was all over the place. I have my Tdapp, I have had my Flu! but if you are sick DON’T kiss me either LOL If anything kissing the baby and exposing them so some germs might improve their resistance. Just like playing in the dirt does!

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