Many viruses can cause sniffles and other cold symptoms, including human metapneumovirus (hMPV). When you experience an upper respiratory infection, you may have one caused by human metapneumovirus. For most people, symptoms stick around for a few days and fade without medical treatment. 

However, some people may develop complications from hMPV if the illness begins to affect the lower respiratory system (the airways and lungs).

This article will look at how to cope with human metapneumovirus, precautions you can take while sick to prevent its spread and avoid complications, and warning signs that the illness has become more serious.

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Coping With Symptoms

In most cases, dealing with hMPV means waiting out the symptoms. You may start to feel a tickle in your throat before you begin to cough and have a runny nose.

Once symptoms set in, they’ll likely fade completely within about a week, whether you use over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products or not. Unlike a bacterial infection, viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics. No existing antivirals are approved to treat hMPV. 

There are a few measures you can take to feel better. If you’re experiencing a painful sore throat and hoarse cough, try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air and prevent dry air from triggering respiratory symptoms. The humid air can also help with congestion.

You may also experience mild body aches, fever, and headache when you have cold-like symptoms. OTC pain relievers and fever reducers like Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) can help. You can also find products for congestion and cough at the drugstore or other store.

Precautions for Treating Children

If you are treating a child, talk to a healthcare provider before giving them any OTC medication. Medications such as aspirin can cause complications, and cough and cold medications may be ineffective or hazardous.

Be careful not to mix products that contain the same ingredients. Some cold and flu products may also be unsafe to combine because of possible medication interactions. When in doubt, talk to a pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Rarely do people need prescription medication to help with hMPV symptoms. While a healthcare provider won’t prescribe antibiotics for viral illnesses, they may recommend a corticosteroid inhaler if you have asthma.

Human Metapneumovirus Precautions

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it might have seemed OK to go to work or see family and friends when you were sick with symptoms of the common cold. Today, people are more aware of how viral illnesses can affect others, particularly those who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system). 

While not everyone has the means to miss school or work or skip important events, you should take precautions, especially if you know you’ll be in contact with people at high risk for complications.

Human metapneumovirus is spread by respiratory droplets, as well as hand-to-hand contact and contact with infected surfaces.

Ways to help prevent the spread of viruses include:

  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Throw used tissue into the trash and sanitize your hands.
  • Try not to touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. Wash or sanitize your hands after touching these areas.
  • Don't share utensils or drinking vessels.
  • Clean items the sick person may have touched (such as toys or door handles).
  • Don't kiss other people.
  • Stay home when sick, if possible.

Warning Signs to Watch For

Most people don’t develop complications with hMPV. But it’s helpful to know the signs of lower respiratory infection so you can promptly seek treatment if you experience them. 

Warning signs can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • High fever and chills
  • Cough that doesn’t go away
  • Cough that produces mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Pain when coughing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite


Human metapneumovirus usually isn't serious, but it’s still important to take precautions to avoid complications and spreading it to others. Staying home when sick, handwashing, and covering your face when coughing or sneezing can help prevent the spread of human metapneumovirus. 

Keeping tabs on your symptoms can help you spot the signs of lower respiratory illness and get treatment before they worsen.

A Word From Verywell

It’s not always easy to tell when someone might be vulnerable to infection. People with compromised immune systems don’t wear a sign on their foreheads. When in doubt, try to make the extra effort to protect others. 

Even if you’re not sick, you might want to wear a mask when you are out in public, especially if you visit a place with many immunocompromised people, like a skilled nursing center or a hospital. If you begin to feel symptomatic, consider testing yourself for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the disease. 

By Steph Coelho

Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.

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