Did you know that today is World Prematurity Day? When I was pregnant with my first baby (Emma, pictured above), I remember feeling relieved to pass the 21-week mark, when I knew she would have a chance at survival. Then I met a friend whose baby was born at 32 weeks, and realized how much of an uphill battle her baby had. 21 weeks was suddenly not a very reassuring marker. In fact, any baby born at or before 37 weeks is considered premature, because at this point their immune systems and lungs are not fully developed, making them more likely to develop infections and experience respiratory problems.
Thankfully, all four of my children were born full-term, and they have had mostly-healthy infancies. I’m very aware of how at-risk babies are, both from my educational background and from witnessing scary illnesses in friends’ children. Which is why I decided to dedicate a post to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of infant hospitalization. RSV is a very common virus that looks like a common cold for most people, but it sends the babies of 79 percent of preemie moms to the hospital. November through March is prime “RSV season” according to the CDC, and it can affect full-term babies as well. Last year, a friend’s full-term baby was hospitalized for two weeks with this disease. Thankfully she made a full recovery, and is back to her normal, very cheerful, self, but those were some frightening days.
RSV is highly contagious, but there is a lot you can do to prevent it. Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently, wash your own hands frequently and make sure others do the same (I have my kids use hand sanitizer as they climb in the van after school), avoid large crowds and anyone who is or has been sick, and never let anyone smoke near your baby. If your baby is at high risk for RSV (low birth weight, some lung or heart disease, family history of asthma, and frequently contact with other children are some risk factors), preventive therapy may be available.
Most importantly, contact your baby’s pediatrician if they start coughing severely, wheezing, taking rapid gasping breaths, if their lips, mouth, or the area under their fingernails turns blue, or if they have a high fever or extreme fatigue.
Do you have a personal experience with prematurity or RSV? Are you taking extra precautions as we head into prime RSV season?
I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.