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'Tis the Season for RSV

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

RSV, those three letters bring a lot of concern to families with young children. RSV, which stands for respiratory syncitial virus, causes winter colds and in babies may cause bronchiolitis. This is a condition of the lower respiratory tract that will cause thousands of infants to wheeze this winter, and is especially serious in younger infants and those babies who may have other underlying problems. RSV has been around for a long time, but due to the internet, school notices and mother’s communication, RSV is now a common topic of discussion among the parent groups. It is not unusual for me to be asked by a mother, “do you think this is RSV” before I have even finished examining a your-baby. Until about three years ago, I almost always started that discussion; they now beat me to it. The information era is impressive.

The interesting thing about RSV is that about 70 – 80% of children will develop RSV antibodies in the first year of life, which means that they have had RSV. The majority will only have cold symptoms and a pretty significant cough. The cough in young children has a certain quality to it, and when I am walking around the mall or grocery store, I am always commenting, “that child has RSV.” Just hearing the cough is often diagnostic during the RSV season.

That is the reason that pediatricians recommend not taking a newborn infant into crowded, enclosed places during the winter months. The germs are airborne and easily transmitted from person to person. No one intentionally wants to get your new your-baby sick, but just being exposed in close proximity is enough to pass the virus.

So, bottom line, keep your newborn as isolated as possible for those first six to 12 weeks especially at this time of year. It is RSV season and will be for the next few months.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow!

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