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December 02, 2021

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RSV: Why You Should Take Baby Colds Seriously

Little baby noses can catch up to 8 colds or more during the first year. Know what to watch out for if your baby's cold worsens.

It can just start out as a little case of the sniffles. An innocent red-cheeked cold. But all too fast, it can sour and turn into something much worse. If you notice that your little one starts having coughing fits, breathing rapidly or refusing to eat, it could mean respiratory syncytial virus, otherwise known as RSV.
    Nearly every child contracts RSV by the age of 2, but for the littlest children — babies born prematurely or babies with week immune systems — it can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year the virus results in 57,000 hospitalizations among children 5 and younger. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases puts that number even higher, at 125,000 children diagnosed each year, adding in the number of adults older than 65 who can contract it. The virus causes inflammation and obstruction of the lungs' small airways.

If your baby's cold takes a turn to the extent that he's having trouble breathing and he's not eating well, you need to call your pediatrician. Other symptoms that spell trouble are dehydration, fever, fussiness and lethargy. According to Vanderbilt University's news site, infants and children who are at high risk for RSV bronchiolitis can receive the drug palivizumab to prevent the infection, but there are not treatment options currently available after RSV occurs.
    Here are key facts to know:

• RSV is a virus that causes infection in the lungs and breathing airways; it's also known as a lower respiratory tract virus
• Can turn into bronchitis or pneumonia in some children
• Cold viruses can transmit RSV
• Most common from October to March
• High-risk children are those under 6 months of age, multiple birth children, premature babies
• RSV usually presents as a cold in an older child
• It is very contagious and spread by coughing, sneezing and hand-to-hand contact

• Talk to your pediatrician about preventative treatments
• Keep your baby away from anyone with a cough or sneeze
• Practice consistent hand-washing
• Use wipes to clean your baby's or child's hands so the virus doesn't spread
• Keep babies away from large groups in public settings
• Teach children not to share cups and utensils
• Don't take your baby or child to activities if he is sick
• Avoid places where people smoke with your children

Symptoms typically last from 8 – 15 days and begin with common cold symptoms like coughing and runny nose.
• Trouble breathing
• Wheezing
• Grunting while trying to take a breath
• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• Irritability and restlessness

• Your child is under 3 months old, was born prematurely or has lung, heart or immune deficiency problems
• You become concerned about any of the above symptoms.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.