Sunday, November 20, 2011

RSV & Preemie Awareness

Cold weather is here, and that means an abundance of colds, flus, and other viruses are going to be more prevalent too. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) season began this month, and almost every baby will contract RSV by age two. It can appear to be a common cold in full-term babies, but it can be potentially dangerous for preterm infants who lack the antibodies needed to fight off infections because their immune systems haven't had time to fully mature. Preterm infants are more susceptible to respiratory problems because they are also born with underdeveloped lungs and are deemed high risk for developing severe RSV disease. RSV can become life-threatening and require medical attention or even hospitalization for preterm infants.

I just became an Auntie a few weeks ago, and thankfully my niece was born full-term. All new parents have a lot to think about when they bring a new baby home, but parents need to be aware of what RSV is, how to prevent it, and when to call the pediatrician at the first sign of a virus. While RSV is still a danger for any newborn, it's especially a worry for new parents of a preemie.
World Prematurity Day was a few days ago on November 17th, but we can't stop there and build awareness of health risks for preemies on just that day. Please take a few moments and learn more about what YOU can do to help with RSV prevention.

RSV Quick Facts
• RSV 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 regions have longer RSV seasons than others, with the season beginning as early as July (e.g., Florida) or ending in April.
• Despite its prevalence, one-third of mothers have never heard of RSV.

Prevention is Key
There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
• Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
• Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
• Avoid large crowds and people who may be sick
• Never let anyone smoke near your baby
• Speak with your child’s doctor if you believe he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available

Be Aware of Symptoms
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:  
• Persistent coughing or wheezing
• Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
• Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
• High fever
• Extreme fatigue
• Difficulty feeding

It's no fun to watch your child be miserable and sick, but it's especially difficult preterm infants. Any virus that can be quick and mild for an adult, can become life-threatening for young ones. If you will be visiting family over the next few months for the holidays and for the rest of RSV season, remember to wash your hands often, cough in your elbow, and avoid the littlest ones if you are sick, or feel even slightly under the weather. Be sure to check out to learn more about RSV, and what you can do to keep your precious little ones healthy this season.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.