Preemies More Likely to Develop Infections
There are 13 million babies born early every year, including more than half a million in the United States. And yet, 3 in 10 mothers of preemies were not even aware of the possibility of prematurity until they had their child. 75% of parents do not realize that prematurity is defined as a baby being born before 37 weeks of gestation. And, since there is such low awareness for preemies, it is also clear that many parents do not fully understand the increased risks these babies often face… and the specialized health care they often require.
Considering that a premature birth often stunts the growth of some of the developing baby’s most critical organs, it increases their risk of serious medical conditions. In fact, often, preemies can face weeks or even months in the NICU. Because of their underdeveloped lungs and immune systems, preemies are more likely to to develop infections and respiratory infections. One particular virus that parents should be aware of is respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. Nearly all children will contract RSV before the age of two, and it typically results in common cold symptoms. But, in preemies that risk is increased and can cause a serious respiratory infection due to underdeveloped lungs and the lack of antibodies to fight off the infection.
Prevention is Key
Although my youngest child was not born premature, she caught RSV just after turning a year old that required some hospitalization. her breathing was so labored and her oxygen levels were low enough to cause great concern. We had rushed her to the emergency room after watching her gasping for breaths. It is so hard to see your child suffering and in pain. Even after two breathing treatments, she was still having some difficulty catching a breath and was admitted to the hospital. We were fortunate that she was a big, healthy baby. After a couple of days in the hospital we were able to take her home… all well and on her way to a full recovery. Other than a diagnosis of Restrictive Airway Disease (asthma) she was given a clean bill of health as we were sent home.
I am sure that she most likely caught the virus from one of her older siblings. RSV is highly contagious and can spread from one person to another quickly. It is easily passed from one person to the next through touching, sneezing and coughing. And since it is a viral infection, there is no treatment for RSV other than to let it run its course. Therefore, prevention is key in fighting RSV. Parents should take the following preventive steps in order to help protect their children:
- Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
- Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid large crowds and people who are or have been sick
- Never let anyone smoke near your baby
- Speak with your child’s doctor if he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available
Symptoms of RSV:
- Severe coughing, wheezing or rapid gasping breaths
- Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
- High fever and extreme fatigue
Learn more about RSV and how you can prevent it in your home at RSVProtection.com. The site contains valuable information on understanding RSV, helping prevent it, and even a risk assessment for your baby. RSV season typically begins in November and runs through March, but can be different for each part of the country. Make sure to ask your pediatrician when RSV season occurs in your area.