Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Tests

Overview of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Test

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a viral infection affecting the respiratory system of infants, children, and adults. It is one of the most common causes of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) test is used to determine if a person is infected with RSV infection. The test can detect the virus in the nose or throat and can be used to diagnose and monitor the course of the infection.


Before taking the RSV test, the person should contact their doctor to make sure that it is the right type of test for them. Some people may have other types of tests, such as antibody tests, that can be used to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will also provide the patient with instructions on how to prepare for the test, such as not eating and drinking for six hours prior to taking the test.

Procedure And Types

The procedure for taking the test involves collecting a sample of mucus from either the nose or throat. The sample is then placed on a slide or sent to a laboratory for analysis. Depending on the type of test ordered, the results can be available in less than a day or in several days. There are two different types of RSV tests:

  • Nasopharyngeal Swab – This test is done in the doctor's office. The swab is inserted into the back of the nasal passageway and a sample of mucus is collected.
  • Molecular PCR Test – This test uses a swab sample to collect a genetic material from the virus. It is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Risks And Why

The RSV test carries a very low risk of complications as there is minimal discomfort associated with obtaining a sample. The most common side effect is nasal irritation or soreness in the area where the swab was inserted. The discomfort is usually temporary and can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication. The test is ordered by doctors to determine if a patient is infected with the RSV virus. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the virus from progressing to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

When to Take the Test

The RSV test is usually ordered by doctors when a patient begins to experience symptoms of an RSV infection such as a cough, wheezing, fever, or difficulty breathing. It is also sometimes ordered when a baby or young child is hospitalized with an unexplained respiratory illness.