Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common disease that’s most children will have at least once before they turn 2. It’s an easily spread virus that causes moderate-to-severe symptoms that mimic a common cold. But for some babies, it can become much more serious. Complications can include a serious lung infection. But how do you know if your baby has a cold or RSV?
There are some signs to look for that can help you decide. Look for wheezing or coughing that doesn’t stop or breathing that’s fast. Also gasping for breath and/or spread-out nostrils. Your baby may also have a caved-in chest when breathing, a bluish tint to her lips or fingernails, and a fever (under 3 months a rectal temp greater than 100.4°F is concerning). If these symptoms are present, please contact your healthcare provider for assistance.
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.
So now that you know what to look for, you should be prepared to prevent it. RSV season varies from state to state, but generally you may want to be prepared October through April of every for the best protection (for the specific time period in your location visit: .
RSV spreads in the same manner as the common-cold virus so the same precautions should be taken for both.
- Wash hands completely prior to holding your infant, and request others do the same
- Don’t allow cigarette smoke in your home, or in close proximity to the baby
- Clean your baby’s bedding, toys, and clothes often
- Keep your baby away from crowds of people and small children and especially from anyone who is experiencing cold or flu symptoms
Premature infants may be more susceptible to RSV so work closely with your healthcare provider for specific tips for your child.
My own son was born healthy and like all my children, weeks late. He weighed 9lb 6oz and appeared healthy. But because I had to return to work 5 weeks after his birth, he started daycare full-time in February of 1988. Unfortunately, he contracted RSV within weeks of starting daycare and thankfully he was diagnosed early and recovered fully.
His daycare took precautions to avoid infection, and unlike us, they were very good about hand washing. It was very likely my husband or myself (or our other young son) that infected him. We were not very well educated about the importance of hand washing back then.
As a new parent, don’t be afraid to let visitors know your expectations. Check out this New Baby Visitor Etiquette Guide (pdf) and feel free to download and print it to share with your parents and friends. Also download and edit the Open Letter to Friends and Family for a user-friendly letter you can personalize and send to let others know you’re taking precautions.
Want more info? Check out the RSVProtection.com for comprehensive information on the disease.
- Cold pursuit: Flu arrives late, but cold virus hits hard (wsunews.wsu.edu)