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RSV Season in Full Swing

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

During the next few months, parents are urged to watch for signs of a lung infection that could turn deadly or cause lifelong health problems in their infants.

From late fall until early spring is the peak season for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of pneumonia and Bronchiolitis in infants.

“Approximately 70 percent of children will contract RSV by the end of their first year,” says Dr. Michael E. Speer, medical director of quality and outcomes management at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics in the section of neonatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “By the time a child is 2 years old, that number rises to 97 percent. In addition, the risk of re-infection between the ages of 1 and 2 years is 76 percent.”

Every year, up to 80,000 babies are hospitalized nationwide and about 500 die due to RSV-related illnesses. The virus may produce permanent health conditions such as asthma and breathing disorders. “RSV can be especially dangerous to at-risk babies,” says Dr. Speer. “This population includes premature infants, children 2 years and younger with chronic lung disease and patients who take medications for heart conditions.” Speer credits improved care, such as the use of prophylactic immunization, for a decrease in the volume of seriously ill babies and fatalities in the last few years.

Although RSV has no cure, monthly injections of the preventive vaccine – a monoclonal antibody known as Synagis – may reduce the risk of hospitalization. “Even if a child gets RSV while on Synagis, it’s worthwhile to continue the medication, because there is more than one strain of RSV,” says Dr. Speer.

What to Watch For

Dr. Sue Hubbard, medical editor of www.kidsdr.com says the signs of RSV initially, may resemble those of a cold, such as fever and runny nose. As the disease takes hold, symptoms may worsen.

In younger children, especially infants and toddlers, RSV can affect their lungs, causing Bronchiolitis or pneumonia. These children can develop more severe symptoms after about 2 to 4 days of having regular cold symptoms and after their fever may have gone away, including:

•       Irritability and poor feeding

•       Lethargy

•       Worsening cough

•       Difficulty breathing, with retractions and nasal flaring

•       Fast breathing

•       Wheezing

•       Hypoxemia (low oxygen levels), although cyanosis, is not common

•       Apnea, although this is most common in infants under 6 weeks of age

Be sure to call your pediatrician or seek other medical attention if your child’s cold seems to be worsening and you think he is developing more

Because RSV is spread easily through the respiratory tract, parents are urged to keep their babies away from any person with a cold or fever. Other precautionary advice to family members and caregivers includes washing hands thoroughly before handling the baby, avoiding crowded areas and never exposing the baby to tobacco smoke.

RSV Facts

RSV is the most common virus that occurs in babies. The leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants, RSV is especially dangerous to at-risk babies, including infants born prematurely, children with chronic lung disease and patients who take medication for heart conditions.

The RSV season begins in late fall and extends through early spring. During this time, up to 80,000 infants are hospitalized nationwide and approximately 500 die from RSV-related illnesses.

RSV is spread easily from person to person through respiratory tract secretions. Symptoms initially may resemble those of a cold, such as fever and runny nose. As the disease worsens, symptoms can include coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing and rapid breathing.

Although not a cure, monthly injections of the monoclonal antibody Synagis for high risk babies – a preventive vaccine – may reduce the risk of hospitalization.  This vaccine is very expensive. Do your homework and consult your pediatrician.

Related Posts on www.kidsdr.com

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