When each of our boys were born, we were very germ-conscious from the start – we had hand sanitizer at the door of our hospital room for people to use before holding our fragile newborn! With C I was especially worried since swine flu was making headlines everywhere, and hormones only exacerbated my fear of him getting sick. Thankfully neither of the boys have ever experienced any serious illness, especially while they were still newborns. It’s definitely wise to be cautious with the spread of germs when small babies’ immune systems are still so immature.
Our third child is due this fall, and I’ve already thought about the fact that he or she will be SO little during the height of winter, when sickness seems to spread especially quickly. We will definitely be taking a lot of precautions, especially with having two preschool-aged children in the house too!
One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This virus can be especially concerning because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Because of this, almost 100% of children contract RSV by their second birthday. In most older children, RSV runs its course with mild symptoms similar to the cold or flu, and many parents may not even know their child has the virus. But in very young babies—and especially preemies and those with certain lung and heart diseases—it can lead to a serious respiratory infection.
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.
- There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
- 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.
If you’re a parent to a newborn, there are a few tips you can try to suggest for visitors:
- Wash your hands frequently—upon entering the home and especially prior to holding the baby. Parents, and the new baby, will appreciate it.
- Leave toddlers at home, especially during the winter months. Young children, especially if they attend day care or preschool, often carry germs and viruses, like RSV, that are easily spread.
If you’re a guest that can’t wait to meet a new baby, consider these suggestions:
- Call before you visit. New parents need time to set up a routine and bond. By giving them time to do so before you visit, you are respecting the new family.
- Postpone a visit if you feel that you may be getting sick, have recently been ill or exposed to illness.
- Remember that parents know best. If you feel they are being overprotective or overly cautious, just consider that only they know what’s best for the health of their new son or daughter.
- Offer to do something to ease their responsibilities as they spend time as a family, such as laundry, cooking or dishes. Sleep-deprived moms and dads will appreciate your help!
You can learn a lot more about RSV and prevention at www.rsvprotection.com, and check out this infographic for more details:
It’s easy to overworry about your child, especially your first. Instead of worrying, just be preventative and watch out for signs of RSV or other serious illness – then if your baby does get sick, you’ll be able to be proactive in getting them treatment as soon as possible.
Note: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.