Cradling my six-week-old daughter in my arms, I know I am one of the lucky moms. Both of my daughters were born full term (S born at 40 weeks + 2 days) without any complications or health concerns. But moms of the 1,400 babies born prematurely everyday in the U.S. are not as lucky. These babies have a difficult road ahead of them from the moment they start their tiny lives. Even after they are released from the hospital and get to go home with mommy and daddy, they are still at risk for infections and viruses that full-term babies are able to fight off.
While, nearly every baby contracts respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) by age two, for most full-term babies symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and many parents never know their child has the virus. However, because preemies don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection, preterm infants—even those born just a few weeks early—are at increased risk for developing an RSV-related infection, often requiring medical attention or hospitalization. This winter, the March of Dimes is encouraging parents to speak with their pediatrician to find out if their baby is at high risk for developing severe RSV disease, and how they can protect against RSV.
March of Dimes, the champion for preterm babies everywhere, hosted World Prematurity Day on November 17 to help raise awareness of RSV and its complications in preemies. And the mission continues, while the March of Dimes continues to fund research to find the causes of premature births and identify and test promising interventions, it also spreads awareness by educating parents about things they can do to help reduce their preemies risk of infection.
RSV Quick Facts:
- RSV 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 regions have longer RSV seasons than others, with the season beginning as early as July (e.g., Florida) or ending in April.
- Despite its prevalence, one-third of mothers have never heard of RSV.
Prevention is Key:
There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
- 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 may be sick
- Never let anyone smoke near your baby
- Speak with your child’s doctor if you believe he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available
Be Aware of Symptoms:
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
- Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
- High fever
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty feeding
Yes, I am lucky, and when those big, beautiful, blue eyes lock with mine, I count my blessings.
To learn more about RSV, visit www.rsvprotection.com. For more about the specialized health needs of preterm infants, visit www.preemievoices.com.
Disclosure – I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.
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