Most of you know that I work with children everyday. In my first grade classroom I have 25 kids that play together, work together, and learn together. We also like to hug and give each other high fives. While I strive to create this type of kind and caring environment, it does pose some challenges when it comes to cold and flu season. This year has been a particularly difficult one to keep kids healthy, including my own!
One of the downfalls of having two parents that work full time outside of the house is that our kids have to spend their days in daycare. While I do feel strongly that my kids are getting the best care that they can possibly get, I still worry about them getting sick. It seems like every day I go to pick up my little girl there is a notice taped to the door saying that there has been a case of pinkeye or strep throat. I guess that is why I didn’t pay too close attention when there was a notice about a case of RSV on the door.
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common, seasonal virus that affects two-thirds of all infants by age one and almost 100% of babies by age two, because it’s highly contagious. RSV can live on surfaces (doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Daycare increases this risk of RSV spreading as children are constantly sharing toys, tables and high chairs as well as eating and napping in close quarters
In December my 7 month old daughter contracted the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. I knew something was wrong. She had a cold for a long time and she had just gotten over an ear infection. The cold wouldn’t go away and she started not wanting to eat. I brought her back to the doctor. The doctor stuck something up her nose (Caroline didn’t care much for that) and came back to tell me it was RSV. I was scared. I knew what it was. We were one of the lucky ones, a lot of our friends’ babies ended up in the ER for RSV.
The RSV season typically runs from November through March, so during the winter months parents should be especially careful to watch for signs of RSV. Below are symptoms of severe RSV infection that require immediate medical care:
- Coughing or wheezing that does not stop
- Fast or troubled breathing
- Spread-out nostrils and/or a caved-in chest when trying to breathe
- Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
Fever (especially if it is over 100.4°F in infants under 3 months of age.
While there is no treatment for RSV, my doctor prescribed a liquid albuterol for Caroline (she said this was controversial). Caroline took that for several weeks. It seemed to help with her wheezing. While she is much better, she still catches a cold rather easily. In fact, she has another one right now. The doctor also told me that a lot of kids with RSV will also get an ear infection and that I should keep my eye out for that.
A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:
- Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
- Serious RSV infection 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 babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
- There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
- Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.
So how can we prevent RSV? While it is impossible to follow your child around with a can of Lysol, we can be sure to have our kids wash their hands frequently. Teachers can have hand sanitizer and bottles of anti-bacterial soap available for students. Parents can wash bedding, and disinfect toys and avoid large groups of people if at all possible during RSV season.
Visit www.RSVProtection.com and follow #RSVProtection on Twitter for more information.