Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV in premature infants can result in a trip to the hospital. Preemies or infants who are born early have under-developed lungs. The lungs are often smaller and have ½ the volume with smaller narrower airways. Many viruses including RSV can be devastating to a child with a chronic lung condition or heart disease. RSV disease is a common seasonal virus that is spread easily.
RSV is a very contagious virus. It is a seasonal virus similar to the flu that affects lungs and breathing passages. It is more prevalent during specific times of the year and this varies depending on the area of the country you live in. In Northern Kentucky and the surrounding areas it is more common between November and April. Most children catch RSV by the time they are 2 years old. It often lasts 1 to 2 weeks however a child will continue to spread RSV 1-3 weeks after recovery.
Premature infants or children with lung and heart problems are greatly affected by RSV. It can cause further complications including pneumonia or bronchiolitis (swelling of the lower airways). RSV is the number 1 reason babies under 12 months are hospitalized. A child with an existing medical condition is more likely to be hospitalized with RSV and will likely take twice as long to come home. In some children RSV can cause the onset of asthma or other chronic conditions of the lungs.
If you notice any signs of RSV you should call your healthcare provider right away.
Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about ways you can prevent your child from getting RSV. The best things you can do is to keep your child away from anyone with symptoms and avoid crowded places during RSV season. This in some cases is next to impossible especially if you have other children who go to school or are around other children throughout the week. Make sure you follow the advice of your pediatrician. Wash your hands frequently and keep your child’s toys and bedding clean. If you have questions about preventing RSV ask your health care provider.