RSV, Influenza and COVID-19 - Reducing the risk of respiratory viruses

Current situation

It is important to remember that COVID-19 is still present in Ottawa. We currently have high levels of Influenza and RSV in our community. There is a risk of transmission, and the risk of severe outcomes from any of these viruses is greater for some individuals than others. Ottawa residents have tools and skills to prevent transmission of COVID-19, the Flu and other respiratory viruses.

Prevention of respiratory illnesses

Respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and colds are circulating in the community. Each measure adds a layer of protection that can lower your risk and the risk to those around you. The higher the level of risk you are facing, the more important it is to consistently use as many of these layers as you can.

This is also an important reminder as we prepare for holiday gatherings, where we can continue to use these layers of protection to help limit the transmission of respiratory illnesses. 

Use your layers

  • Being vaccinated with all the doses you are eligible and recommended for such as COVID-19, and influenza vaccines
  • Wear a well-fitting mask to protect yourself and others in indoor or crowded spaces
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or mask with unwashed hands to prevent germs from entering your system
  • Wash your hands often (or use hand sanitizer), especially after being in contact with others or being in a shared/public space
  • Stay home when you’re sick – do not attend work, school or childcare or visit high-risk settings like long term care or retirement homes and hospitals. Make sure you wear a mask when you go out in public after feeling better until 10 days have passed
  • Choose to gather with people outside or in well-ventilated spaces where lots of space can be kept between people
  • Cover your cough - cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or into a tissue that you dispose of
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly like doorknobs, light switches and railings
  • Make a plan in the event you or your child/children have to stay home from work


Ottawa Public Health is strongly recommending mask use in all indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings to help limit transmission, protect the capacity of pediatric care, and reduce risks for severe illness requiring hospitalization.  Ottawa Public Health also supports businesses, workplaces and organizations that encourage and welcome mask wearing.  

illustration of sanitizer bottle, swab, covid rapid tests and vaccine needles


When to visit the emergency department

Go to an emergency department if you or your child:

  • Has trouble breathing, pale skin, lips that look white or blue, asthma or wheezing.
  • Is younger than three months old and has any of the following symptoms:
    • Fever and is very sleepy or difficult to wake
    • Repeated vomiting and unable to keep any liquids down for eight hours or more
    • Vomiting or diarrhea containing a large amount of blood
    • Signs of dehydration with dry mouth or no urination for eight hours or more

Please see this helpful factsheet from CHEO.

For those seeking care with COVID-19 or respiratory symptoms, below is the full list of Care Clinics in the Ottawa-area:

How are respiratory viruses spread?

The different respiratory viruses are spread in much the same way. Many of them are very contagious. The viruses are usually spread in one of 3 ways:

  • Direct contact—such as kissing, touching or holding hands—with an infected person.
  • Indirect contact –such as touching something—a toy, doorknob or another surface—that has been touched by an infected person and now has germs (virus) on it.
  • Through the air when a person coughs or sneezes. Droplets from the cough or sneeze can reach another person’s nose or mouth.  Being close (less than two meters apart) to someone with the infection who is coughing or sneezing.

OPH will continue to monitor the COVID-19, influenza and RSV situation in Ottawa using a variety of monitoring indicators such as wastewater signals, test positivity, vaccination levels, outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths. 

This information will continue to be available on our website. 




Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects the lungs and airways. It causes colds and is the most common cause of broncholitis in young infants and toddlers. Most children will have at least one RSV infection by the age of two. The infection is most severe in young babies and older adults and can cause serious lung infections that may require hospitalization. However, most infants and children infected by RSV typically experience mild symptoms that last a few days. Older children and adults also get RSV but symptoms are typically mild, similar to a common cold.

After exposure to the virus, it can take two to eight days before children become sick and are contagious for up to three to eight days. Children are often exposed to and infected with RSV outside the home, such as in school or child care centers, and can then transmit the virus to other members of the family.

Symptoms of RSV

Children with RSV may experience symptoms like a cold or flu. They can include:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Decreased appetite and energy
  • Irritability
Common cold

The ‘common cold’ is caused by viruses (germs) that infect the nose, throat and sinuses causing upper respiratory tract infections. Colds are most common in the fall and winter when people are indoors and in close contact with each other. They're so common in fact that it's normal for children under five years old to have as many as 12 upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in one year.


Upper respiratory tract infections, like colds, cause symptoms in the nose, throat and sinuses. They can include:

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Poor appetite

Vaccination and treatment


There is currently no Health Canada approved vaccine for RSV.

How to treat RSV at home?

  • Use over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under six months old without first speaking to your health care provider. Never give aspirin to children.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If your baby is having trouble drinking, try to clear nasal congestion with a bulb syringe or saline nose drops.
  • A lukewarm bath or wet face cloth may help your child feel more comfortable. Avoid cold baths because they can make your child shiver, raising their temperature.
  • Dress your child in light clothing. If your child starts to shiver, add warmer clothing and remove them when the shivering stops.
  • Consult your health care provider before giving your child non-prescription cold medicines or if you have concerns about your child’s symptoms.
Common cold

How to treat the common cold at home





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