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.
This infant virus 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 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)
We know a family whose son recently contracted RSV while attending daycare. The urgent care overlooked the symptoms and sent this family home with the diagnosis of a “bad cough”. The following Monday the daycare informed them of another child in their care had contracted a severe case of RSV and was in the hospital. These parents made an informed decision to follow-up with their pediatrician after learning of the RSV symptoms. Sure enough their son also had it! Because there is no treatment for RSV they were given a nebulizer and told to watch their child closely for severe symptoms.
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 the season.
A few facts about respiratory virus 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.
• It 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.
• Serious symptoms of the 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 it, 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).
Disclosure: 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.