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When my oldest son was born, I was pretty much a regular first-time mom. I wanted to do everything 100% by the book, so that he would never, ever, ever get sick (realistic expectation, right?) However despite all of my best efforts, he developed RSV when he was just 2 months old. I still remember that horrible feeling of shock and worry when the doctor told me that this was the case. I had heard horror stories about babies with RSV spending weeks in the hospital, and possibly even dying. I am still so grateful for a kind family doctor who took the time to properly explain the facts, risks and concerns while easing my anxiety over the situation.
In support of RSV prevention and World Prematurity Day (November 17, 2014), I am hoping to offer that same feeling of support, awareness and hope to new moms, that my doctor offered to me. I hope to do this by sharing some facts, advice and personal feelings concerning RSV. I feel that by raising awareness, learning the facts, and dispelling the myths about RSV, parents can be more prepared to prevent the illness and effectively treat it if it does occur.
1. RSV is Common: When I first learned that my son had RSV, the first thing that came to my mind where the few extreme cases that I had happened to hear about. What I later learned is that RSV is a very common illness among children under the age of 2. In fact, nearly all children will contract RSV at some point in their infancy.
2. RSV is not necessarily life threatening: When I first heard my son had RSV, panic ensued. I had heard that babies died from RSV, and thought that the doctor was giving my son a death sentence. The truth however, is that in healthy full-term babies RSV can manifest itself as simply as moderate to mild cold-like symptoms. I am grateful to say, that this was the case for my son. After a few weeks of uncomfortable cold-like symptoms, some extra precautions and lots of extra cuddles, he was back to his normal self.
3. RSV Can Be Serious or Life-threatening: While this may sound contradictory to my above statement, it’s something that is very important to understand. While RSV can manifest itself as simply a cold, it is also the leading cause of hospitalization in the US for children under 1. Each year approximately 125,000 infants are hospitalized due to RSV with 200 infant deaths per year attributed to the disease. For this reason, it is very important to see a doctor if you believe your baby may have RSV. This is also why I believe that accurate awareness of RSV is so crucial.
4. Premature Babies Are At Higher Risk For Severe RSV: All babies run the risk of contracting RSV, however the chance of it developing into severe RSV is much higher in babies born prematurely. Because of this, premature babies are twice as likely to be hospitalized then full term babies due to RSV. This is why I am hoping to spread awareness of RSV in support of World Prematurity Day, and hope that you will do the same by sharing this information with family and friends.
5. Know the Signs And Symptoms of RSV: RSV can be very difficult to identify because it seems so similar to cold symptoms. I remember that when my son had RSV, I thought he just had a bad cold. However, there are a few subtle differences that can clue you in to the fact that it could be RSV
• coughing or wheezing
• blush color around mouth or fingertips
• rapid, difficult breaths
• fever (especially if it is over 100.4 rectal in infants under 3 months of age)
6. Prevention Tips: There is no way to completely prevent RSV (even my by-the-book, “new-mom-itis” did not prevent my son from getting RSV). However there are certainly some ways to lower your baby’s risk of catching it. Those include:
•washing hands and asking others to do the same when touching your baby
• regularly clean and sanitize toys, books, blankets and other items that your child touches.
• try to avoid crowded places and groups with young children during RSV season (November through March)
• do not allow anyone to smoke near your child
• avoid contact with people who have been recently sick.
7. Learn More: To learn more about RSV visit the RSV prevention website www.RSVprotection.com. This is a fantastic resource that gives you tips for talking to your doctor about RSV, information and RSV seasons in your local area, and real-life stories from families that have been affected by RSV.
Do your part to help families with young children learn about RSV to support RSV awareness and World Prematurity Day, by sharing this important information with those you know.