Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is easy to catch, and it hits us the same time of year as the flu.
While most children and adults experience RSV as a common cold virus that they can treat at home, babies less than 2 years of age, and especially premature babies, can have more severe symptoms like wheezing and difficulty breathing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the virus infects almost all children by their second birthday, but only a small percentage requires hospitalization. Before doctors and ambulances come into the picture, the best thing we can all do is try to prevent the spread of germs—both RSV and others. The good news is that those taking steps to prevent the flu are already working to prevent RSV.
- Wash hands frequently
- Stay home when sick
- Cover the mouth and/or nose when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid sharing food, eating utensils and cups
Watch the video below to learn more ways to prevent RSV.
Signs that Your Baby Needs Medical Care
Call 911 or your local ambulance service right away if your baby:
- Is so weak and tired that he hardly responds to you
- Is working very hard to breathe or finds it hard to take a breath
- Grunts when he breathes
- Has chest retractions (skin pulling in around the ribs and chest when breathing)
- Has a blue or dark purple color to the nail beds, lips or gums
- Stops breathing for more than 10 seconds
- Cannot speak while trying to breathe
- Has any breathing problem that needs care right away
Call your baby’s doctor if your baby:
- Does not smile or show interest in play for at least a few minutes during a four-hour period
- Wheezes or breathes harder than he did when he was seen by the doctor
- Is unable to breathe and suck at the same time or chokes when he sucks
- Has any fever and is less than 3 months old, or has a fever lasting longer than three days in older babies
- Cannot be calmed for at least a few minutes each hour using methods that usually work for your baby, such as holding, rocking, pacifiers or soothing talk.
It is still not too late to get the flu vaccine. RSV doesn’t have a vaccine, but premature babies can receive a medication before RSV season to help prevent infection.