Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. It usually starts spreading in the fall and peaks in the winter months. RSV infection can happen at any age; however, it can be more serious in young children and older adults with underlying health conditions such as asthma, chronic heart or lung disease, and those with weakened immune systems.


RSV symptoms usually happen within four to six days after getting infected, and usually include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

Very young infants may only experience irritability, decreased activity, and breathing problems.


Symptoms of RSV are not specific and can overlap with other respiratory infections. People admitted to the hospital may have a nose swab done to confirm the diagnosis.


Most people who get RSV recover on their own. However, RSV can cause severe illness in some people, and medical attention and treatment are needed. Antiviral medication is not routinely recommended to fight infection.

You may manage your symptoms by taking the following steps:

  • Reduce fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Do not give aspirin to children.)
  • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.

Additional information for parents on how to manage your child’s symptoms and when to seek medical attention, visit the Ministry of Health’s Respiratory Syncytial Virus webpage.

If you have questions about your illness and you don’t start to feel better after a few days or your symptoms get worse, call you health care provider, or 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) to talk to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls to 811 do not need you to provide your OHIP number and all information is free, secure, and confidential.

Like the flu and COVID-19, RSV is typically spread through respiratory droplets when people sick with the virus cough, sneeze, or talk near people who are within 2 meters. Less commonly, a person may also get RSV when they touch a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days and may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of being sick. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as four weeks.

You can help stop the spread of RSV by:

  • Covering your cough and sneeze with a tissue or your shirt sleeve, not your hands
  • Cleaning your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices
  • Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask in crowded indoor settings
  • Staying home if you feel sick, even when symptoms are mild
  • Getting an RSV vaccine if you are eligible

AREXVY is a new vaccine recently approved by Health Canada for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD) caused by RSV in people 60 years of age and older. AREXVY is given as a single dose. A 14-day period is needed between receiving AREXVY and another vaccine, such as COVID-19 and the flu.

Following direction from the Ontario Ministry of Health, Ontario is rolling out a publicly funded vaccination program for eligible individuals 60 years of age and older who are:

  • living in long-term care homes
  • living in Elder Care Lodges
  • living in some retirement homes licensed to provide dementia care services
  • hospitalized ALC patients
  • receiving dialysis
  • transplant recipients
  • experiencing homelessness
  • Indigenous, including those in urban dwellings

If you are eligible for a publicly funded AREXVY, please get vaccinated as soon as possible. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has not yet provided recommendations on the broader use of this vaccine.

Anyone who is 60 years of age or older and not eligible for the publicly funded vaccine can speak to their healthcare provider about receiving the RSV vaccine through private purchase.

Please speak with your health care provider if you have questions regarding eligibility.

Vaccine Ingredients & Allergies

The AREXVY vaccine contains an active ingredient that gives our body instructions to make antibodies. Other vaccine ingredients include lipids (fats), salts, sugars, and buffers. AREXVY contains no preservatives. The vial stoppers are not made with natural rubber latex.

People with severe allergies to any of the vaccine ingredients including non-medicinal ingredients, should speak with their physician/allergists about getting the vaccine. Some people with allergies to an ingredient can still be safely vaccinated.

Polysorbate-80 is in the AREXVY vaccine. It is used to hold (or bind) the vaccine ingredients together. Polysorbate-80 can be found in most processed food, sauces, condiments, soups, ice cream, chewing gum, soaps, creams, bath gels, shampoo, body butter, cosmetics, vitamins, heart medication and contraceptives (birth control).

Active ingredient: Each dose (0.5 mL) of AREXVY contains 120 micrograms of RSVPreF3 glycoprotein antigen with the AS01E adjuvant.

Non-medicinal ingredients: Each dose (0.5 mL) of AREXVY contains cholesterol, dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine, dipotassium phosphate, disodium phosphate anhydrous, MPL, polysorbate 80, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, QS-21, sodium chloride, trehalose dihydrate, and water for injection.

Side Effects & Safety

Early evidence from clinical trials has shown that AREXVY is generally well tolerated with the most reported adverse events being injection site pain, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain. Common side effects can include redness and swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, and runny nose.

  • Swelling of lymph nodes, and allergic reaction such as rash, nausea, or stomach pain is uncommon.
  • Serious neurologic conditions, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, have been very rarely reported after RSV vaccination in clinical trials. It is unclear whether the vaccine caused these events. Canada’s vaccine surveillance system will continue to monitor the safety and side effects of AREXVY following vaccination and report them publicly.
  • Please report to your healthcare professional or call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 if you experience a side effect following immunization.
  • Talk to your Healthcare Provider.
  • Always tell your healthcare provider if you have allergies or if you have had side effects from a vaccine in the past. Postpone the vaccine if you are ill or have a fever. Check with your healthcare provider to find out if the RSV vaccine is right for you.

Where to get an RSV Vaccine

  • Residents of Ontario long-term care homes, Elder Care Lodges, and some retirement homes that are licensed to provide dementia care services who are 60 years of age and older will be offered publicly funded AREXVY vaccine through their home/Lodge when the vaccine is available and should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • For all other eligible populations for the publicly funded AREXVY vaccine, please consult your healthcare provider.
  • Anyone who is 60 years of age or older and not eligible for the publicly funded vaccine can speak to their healthcare provider about receiving the RSV vaccine for private purchase at a pharmacy.