RSV Awareness: Do You Know the Signs?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a potentially dangerous condition that is not widely known about. In some instances it can be fatal and normally affects two-thirds of all babies by one year of age. Scary, huh?

What is RSV?
My six month old had a bad cold a few months ago – worse than her brother and sister, but I thought it was just because of her age. I was totally freaked out when I took her to be checked out after 2 weeks and found out she was recovering from RSV! We were very lucky and blessed that her illness wasn’t worse than it was, because many times this condition puts babies in the hospital, fighting for their lives.

RSV is Dangerous for Premature Infants
RSV typically causes normal cold-like symptoms, but in some babies it results in a serious respiratory infection and premature infants are at most risk as their lungs aren’t fully developed and they have fewer infection-fighting antibodies than full-term babies. My friend Beth and her husband lived through this horrific reality almost three years ago. Lillian was born 3 months early and for 3 months she fought for her life in the NICU. She started in the local hospital NICU, which was good in its own right, helping her heal and grow and develop. The staff doesn’t even understand how little Lillian contracted RSV since everyone was required to wash their hands (while supervised by a nurse) before even entering the NICU. Then there was the sanitizing dispenser on every wall.

I know from first-hand ex>perience with my first baby that the NICU has very strict rules, but somehow Lillian contracted RSV. She was quickly transferred to an amazing Children’s Hospital where she was monitored for weeks, her heartrate dropping to 2-5 beats per minute on more than one occasion. My friend Beth is an amazingly strong woman but this experience can break even the toughest of mothers.

Baby Lillian is a tough little girl, and with lots of rallying, she made it through, miraculously. She made an amazing recovery and is an absolute miracle baby to be the odds not just once as a preemie, but twice after contracting RSV before her body was equipped to handle something like that.

Signs and Symptoms of RSV Requiring Medical Care
There are symptoms to look out for in older babies and toddlers during the RSV season which typically runs from November through March. Here 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)

A few facts about RSV 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Symptoms of serious RSV 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 RSV, 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).

Visit and follow #RSVProtection on Twitter for more information.

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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.

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