Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that I was selected to complete in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and MedImmune. I received compensation in exchange for providing this post. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
One of the most popular topics on this blog has been about RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Respiratory Syncytial Virus is something that all parents of young children should be aware of, as nearly 100% of children under age 2 contract the virus, whether you know it or not.
What is RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)?
The reason that some parents are not aware of RSV is because the symptoms are similar to those from the common cold or seasonal flu. Babies sick with RSV may experience coughing, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, earache, fever, lethargy, crankiness, and loss of appetite. Although these symptoms may cause discomfort during the course of the illness, many babies recover. However, RSV has some risks associated with it, and for some babies, including preemies, the commonplace virus may become dangerous or even deadly.
Who is Most at Risk for Complications from RSV?
Winter may be drawing to a close, but the risk of RSV continues. The typical RSV season is November through March in the United States, though it can vary. It is important to be vigilant about the potential risk that RSV poses to babies and toddlers under the age of 2, who are the most likely to contract the virus. We have previously discussed the danger that RSV poses to babies born prematurely, but there are other segments that experience an advanced risk.
Research data indicates that babies from African-American and Hispanic communities are at increased risk of developing severe RSV disease. There may be a variety of reasons for this. First of all, half a million preemies are born each year in the U.S. The preterm birth rate has grown 6% over the last decade among Hispanics—that ends up being 1 in 8 Hispanic babies.
Another reason for increased risk for Latino children is due to family and household demographics. Studies have indicated that Hispanic families tend to have more children. This means that babies often have numerous siblings. They may also live with or come into contact with extended family members who interact with other children, go to school, and often care for them, increasing the chances of the infant contracting RSV.
The final factor contributing to why Hispanic children may be at higher risk for RSV may be lack of awareness about RSV and its risks. Data suggests that 2/3 of Hispanic mothers have never heard of RSV, and 1 in 5 Hispanic moms finds out about RSV after their child becomes sick with the virus.
Learn Your ABCS of RSV
As with most potential risks, knowledge is key. If you want to reduce the risks of RSV, regardless of your race, it’s important to get informed. There’s an easy way to do this: by learning the ABCs pf RSV.
- A is for Awareness: Get the facts about RSV.
RSV is a common seasonal virus, contracted by nearly all children by the age of 2, and typically causes mild to moderate cold-like symptoms in healthy, full-term babies. Preterm infants, however, are born with undeveloped lungs and immature immune systems that put them at heightened risk for developing severe RSV disease, often requiring hospitalization. RSV occurs in epidemics each year, typically from November through March, though it can vary by geography and year-to-year.
- RSV disease is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies during their first year of life in the United States, with approximately 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 400 infant deaths each year.
- RSV disease is responsible for 1 of every 13 pediatrician visits and 1 of every 38 trips to the ER in children under the age of 5.
- Despite being so common, many parents aren’t aware of RSV; in fact, 1/3 of mothers (and 2/3 of Hispanic mothers) have never heard of the virus.
- B is for Babies: Learn about RSV’s effect on infants and toddlers under 2 years.
- Premature babies—defined as those born before 37 weeks gestation—are most at risk for developing severe RSV disease, because they have underdeveloped lungs and fewer antibodies to fight the virus than babies born full term.
- Amongst Hispanics, the preterm birth rate has grown 6% over the last decade. Currently 1 in 8 Hispanic babies is born premature, and it is likely that high prematurity rates are a reason for increased risk of RSV within Hispanic communities.
- C is for Contagious: Find out how RSV spreads and warning signs to look for.
RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Additionally, the virus can live on the skin and surfaces for hours. Learn the symptoms of severe RSV disease and contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
- Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
- Fever [especially if it is over 100.4°F (rectal) in infants under 3 months of age]
“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”
Since there is no treatment for RSV once it’s contracted, prevention is your best defense.
To help minimize the spread of RSV disease, all parents should:
- Wash their hands and ask others to do the same
- Keep toys, clothes, blanket and sheets clean
- Avoid crowds and other young children during RSV season
- Never let anyone smoke around your baby
- Steer clear of people who are sick or who have recently been sick
Consulting with a pediatrician is recommended for parents to obtain answers to questions about their child’s health. Data suggests that 1 in 3 Hispanic mothers has made a decision to hold off on proper treatment for their child due to the high cost of medical care. This is an unfortunate fact that needs to change. Speak with your child’s pediatrician to determine if your baby is at high risk for RSV disease, and if so, what additional steps may be recommended.
To learn more about RSV and how to prevent this potentially dangerous disease, check out the infographic below, as well as the RSV Protection Site. You can also review my previous RSV blog posts that provide more insight on RSV, its impact on preemies, and helpful tips to keep your children safe from RSV at day care and school.
Want to discuss this important matter with others interested in promoting healthier babies? Use the hash tag #ABCsofRSV when tweeting and join the conversation!
Here’s to healthier babies and healthier lives through the ABCs of RSV!