Monoclonal Antibodies to Prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection

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Monoclonal Antibodies to Prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Palivizumab stops respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) from reproducing. This medicine contains antibodies that are made in a lab.

Why It Is Used

Palivizumab is used to prevent RSV infection. It is mainly used for children who have a high risk of developing complications, such as those who have chronic lung disease or heart problems. If your baby was born early or has health problems, talk to your doctor about the need to prevent RSV.

If palivizumab does not prevent a child from becoming infected with RSV, it may make the illness less severe. This reduces the child's chance of having complications, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

How Well It Works

Using palivizumab monthly during the RSV season lowers the chance of needing to go to the hospital (for RSV-related illnesses) by almost half, and it shortens the length of stay in the hospital by more than half.1

Palivizumab does not decrease how often children get other illnesses, such as ear infections.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking the medicine unless your doctor says so.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Gray or blue skin and fingernails.

Call your doctor right away if your child has:

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears.
  • Hives or skin rash.

Side effects of this medicine include:

  • Cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Vomiting.

Palivizumab may cause pain at the site where the medicine was given.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Palivizumab is given as an injection, and it is given at a doctor's office. During the RSV season (late fall to early spring), this shot is given once a month for up to 5 months. The number of doses depends on your child's risk factors.

Your child may need to take this medicine for most of the RSV season, whether he or she gets RSV infection or not. Different strains of RSV can be present in a community during the same year, so treatment may still offer protection from infection.

Palivizumab does not interfere with the regular immunization schedule.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Horga MA, Moscona A (2006). Respiratory syncytial virus. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 793–797. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last RevisedJune 25, 2012

Last Revised: June 25, 2012

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