It is the beginning of fall and soon winter will follow. And that means cold season is right around the corner. But when you have a premature baby sometimes those sniffles can mean more than just the common cold. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms in adults and older children. In fact, almost all babies get it before the age of 2. But it can have serious consequences for high-risk infants.
Certain babies are at risk for severe RSV and complications from the infection, including bronchitis and pneumonia. Premature infants, babies who were born at low birthweight and babies with heart or lung disease are all at increased risk. It is especially important for parents of these infants to be aware of the signs and symptoms of RSV. These include:
• Persistent coughing or wheezing (Do not give over-the-counter cough and cold products to infants and children younger than 4 years of age. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these medications can have serious and life-threatening side effects.)
• Rapid, difficult or gasping breaths
• Blue color of the lips, around the mouth or under the fingernails
• A fever of more than 100.4° F
RSV spreads easily through touching, kissing, sneezing, and coughing. It can live for hours on hard surfaces, such as countertops, and even in used tissues. There are some simple steps parents and caregivers can take to minimize their baby’s exposure to RSV. The main thing to do is wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water. Make sure everyone who touches your baby has clean hands. Keep your baby away from crowds of people. Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and don’t share cups, spoons and forks with others.
Babies who are at highest risk from RSV (including babies born at or before 32 weeks of pregnancy) may benefit from medication that helps prevent the infection. This medication is called palivizumab (Synagis). It is given in monthly injections during the fall and winter months. Make sure you discuss this with your baby’s health care provider.
For more information, you can visit RSV Protection.
Note: The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.