As a preemie baby myself as well as a mother to preemies I know that I had to be extra careful when they came home. Their lungs were immature and their immune systems weren’t as strong as they could be. I didn’t want my children to have to go through the things I did as a baby. I have heart disease and because I was premature I contracted rheumatic fever which left some scars on my heart. My body simply couldn’t fight it off. I knew to ask the doctor all the questions and that was when I learned about RSV, a common seasonal virus that is contracted by nearly all children by the age of two. In full term babies it typically causes mild to moderate flu like symptoms. In fact many babies probably have RSV and parents assume they have the flu or a cold. That assumption may explain why only a third of mothers have even heard of this virus. From November to March each year RSV occurs in epidemics (it does vary by geography and year-to-year) and is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies during their first year of life in the United States. There are approximately 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 200 infant deaths each year. That is such a huge number and one that with a little knowledge can easily be lowered!
Symptoms of Severe RSV Disease
If your baby (especially if you have a preemie) has any of these symptoms please seek medical help right away:
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
- Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
- Fever (especially if it is over 100.4°F [rectal] in infants under 3 months of age)
In all honesty protecting your baby from RSV is mostly common sense but we just don’t think about often enough. Many time we pass our baby around to everyone in the room which is something we should never do. Anyone who touches your baby should wash their hands including you. Make a habit of washing your throughout the day and teach smaller children to do the same. Don’t take a preemie out into a crowd during RSV season. I know! I know! Everyone wants the picture with Santa but it isn’t worth risking your baby’s life. Of course don’t let anyone smoke around your baby ever and NEVER EVER allow your baby around someone who has been sick recently.
World Prematurity Day and RSV Protection
November 17 is World Prematurity Day and my hope is that parents take the time to educated themselves about the increased risks that come with having a preemie and espiecally about RSV. My sincere hope is that all of my readers take the time to learn more about RSV Protection and share that knowledge with everyone they know. Armed with this knowledge who knows how many babies we may save this year.