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To determine the long term effects of ribavirin therapy in children hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infection.Fifty-four of 60 children in randomized trials of ribavirin therapy were enrolled in a prospective follow-up study. Subjects were examined annually and had age-appropriate pulmonary function tests; interim histories were obtained from families and personal physicians.Recurrent lower respiratory tract illness was reported at least once for 79% of the ribavirin and 73% of placebo group. In the first 5 years after RSV, 54% of the ribavirin group and 50% of the placebo group reported wheezing. There were no significant differences between the groups in annual rates, timing, or severity of recurrent lower respiratory tract illness. No significant differences in pulmonary function were detected by tests of oxygen saturation, peak expiratory flow and spirometry.Children in the ribavirin treatment group did not have exacerbated respiratory symptoms compared with those in the control group, and their pulmonary function measurements were equal to those of the placebo-treated group, suggesting no long term adverse effect or benefit of ribavirin therapy.