With a new baby on the way, I often worry about how I am going to keep my new bundle healthy while my toddler is exposed to other children. I know that childhood illnesses are inevitable, and my fear isn’t necessarily the baby getting sick as much as how small the baby will be if she gets sick. RSV – respiratory syncytial virus, is one of those illnesses I fear the most, mainly because I know for a small infant it would mean a hospital stay. My little girl had RSV when she was a little over a year old, and she had all the classic symptoms: shortness of breath, an overproduction of mucous, and coughing that lead to her gasping for breath. Her doctor thought it would best be managed at home, and gave us a nebulizer with saline solution to help break up the mucous. He warned us that her symptoms would last for a few weeks, and that as long as she isn’t having difficulty breathing, then we were okay to keep her home. If she started to show symptoms of not being able to breathe, we were instructed to immediately take her to the hospital. As you can imagine, we didn’t sleep for days. Since she was over a year old, she was able to fight this nasty virus without being admitted to the hospital, and within 3 weeks she was healed.
If she was under a year old, she may have had to have a hospital stay to keep her closely monitored. Babies born before 36 weeks gestation are most susceptible to complications arising from RSV. My husband and I are very aware of this, and while ANYONE can bring RSV home to a new baby, we have a very strict “no children” policy when it comes to visitors and our new baby. We are both teachers, so we know that children spread viruses much easier because they are in constant contact with other children when they attend school. They also do not practice proper hygiene and hand washing. (Hopefully the adults do!)
A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:
- Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
- Serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 infant deaths each year.
- RSV occurs in epidemics each fall through spring. The CDC has defined “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
- There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
- Certain babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
- Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.
To prevent RSV infection in your child, make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially when holding or feeding baby. It is also a good idea to keep toddlers who are in daycare and school-aged children away from newborns, since they are more likely to carry and spread germs and viruses. You can find out more information at RSVProtection.com. Whether you are a new, seasoned, or soon to become parent, it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with RSV prevention.