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

It is important to remember that COVID-19 influenza and RSV, will continue to circulate in our community.  The risk of severe outcomes from respiratory viruses is greater for some individuals than others. Ottawa residents have tools and skills to prevent transmission of respiratory viruses.

Prevention of respiratory illnesses

Staying up to date with (COVID-19 and influenza) vaccines, hand washing, physical distancing, masking, and staying home when sick are measures we can continue to use in a layered approach to prevent the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Using layers of protection remains especially important to protect yourself if you are at higher risk or you are around people at higher risk.


If you have symptoms of respiratory illness, please stay home, limit your contacts with others, and wear a mask if you need to go out to public settings.

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.

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.

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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