Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Do you know what RSV or respiratory syncytial virus is? It is a contagious viral disease that may infect a person's lungs and breathing passages, which most children will catch by the age of 2 years old. RSV spreads rapidly among children. While most will recover in 1 to 2 weeks, even after recovery, infants and children can continue to spread the virus for 1 to 3 weeks. It usually causes mild to moderate cold symptoms. But for premature babies, babies who have chronic lung disease, or those who were born with certain heart problems, RSV can lead to serious health problems.
Premature infants are very susceptible to infection in the early weeks of their lives, so contracting something as small as the common cold can present danger. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common, seasonal virus that affects two-thirds of all infants by age one and almost 100% of babies by age two, because it’s highly contagious. RSV can live on surfaces (doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Daycare increases this risk of RSV spreading as children are constantly sharing toys, tables and high chairs as well as eating and napping in close quarters.
|Here's Cameron sitting in my hand at 3½ weeks old.|
The Threat of RSV in Child Care and School SettingsIt is estimated that 82% of U.S. children aged six weeks to six years old, spend some amount of time in child care. Whether it’s five or 50 hours a week, the risks of spending time in a daycare or pre-school setting are the same - increased exposure to contagious germs and viruses. Children’s inborn behavioral habits such as a need for close interpersonal contact and lack of good personal hygiene, combined with an environment that promotes and rewards sharing, make daycare settings an environment for infection spreading. Because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, this is especially worrisome for very pre-term babies in daycare, or with school-aged siblings who bring germs into the home.
RSV typically causes mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, but in some babies it results in a serious respiratory infection. Those most at risk for severe RSV include premature infants, as their lungs aren’t fully developed and they have fewer infection-fighting antibodies than full-term babies.
The RSV season typically runs from November through March, so during the winter months parents should be especially careful to watch for signs of RSV. Below are symptoms of severe RSV infection that require immediate medical care:
- Coughing or wheezing that does not stop
- Fast or troubled breathing
- Spread-out nostrils and/or a caved-in chest when trying to breathe
- Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
- Fever (especially if it is over 100.4°F in infants under 3 months of age
Once contracted, there is no treatment for RSV, so working together to prevent the risk of RSV is critical. All parents should take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including always washing their hands and child’s hands, and asking others to do the same. It’s also important to remember to keep toys, clothes, blankets, and sheets clean and avoid crowds and other sick children during RSV season.
Prevention is especially important for babies at increased risk of becoming ill from RSV. Parents of preemies should be informed of the dangers of RSV, as well as the risks that certain child care settings can present. If possible, parents of highrisk babies may want to consider alternate options, such as nannies or in-home daycare centers, where exposure to dangerous germs can be minimized. Regardless of child care settings, it’s important for parents who believe their child may be at high-risk for RSV to speak with a doctor about prevention.
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.
- 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.
- There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. The opinions expressed are my own and were NOT influenced in any way.