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Protecting Your Baby from RSV

RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children, and is one of many viruses that causes colds in children. Infecting the lungs and breathing passages, it is frequently responsible for bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under age one. In fact, the highest incidence of RSV illness occurs in infants from two months to eight months of age. RSV is also the most common reason that infants under one year of age are hospitalized.

RSV is a highly contagious infection, occurring most often during the months from fall through spring. It causes symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose with or without an accompanying sore throat, a mild cough, and sometimes a fever. The infection can remain in the nose or involve the ears and it can spread to the lower respiratory tract causing bronchiolitis. The symptoms of bronchiolitis include abnormally rapid breathing and wheezing.

If your baby was born prematurely, or has chronic lung disease, he has a higher risk of having a serious RSV infection. Premature babies frequently have underdeveloped lungs, and may not have received enough antibodies from their mother to help them combat RSV if they encounter it.

How to Reduce Your Baby's Chances of Developing a More Serious RSV Infection:

  • Having people wash their hands with warm water and soap before picking up and holding your baby
  • Reducing close contact with people who have runny noses or other sicknesses. Continue to breastfeed when you have a cold, however, since doing so will supply the baby with nourishment and protective antibodies
  • As much as possible, limiting your baby's siblings from spending time with your infant when they have a cold (and make sure they wash their hands frequently)
  • Keeping your baby away from crowded areas, such as shopping malls and elevators, where he'll have close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoiding smoking around your baby, since secondhand smoke could increase his susceptibility to a serious RSV infection

If Your Baby Develops Bronchiolitis or Another RSV Infection:

If your pediatrician determines that your baby has developed bronchiolitis or another RSV infection, she may recommend symptomatic treatment, such as easing nasal stuffiness with a nasal aspirator or mild salt-solution nasal drops. Severe pneumonia or bronchiolitis may require hospitalization in order to administer humidified oxygen and medications to help your child breathe more easily.

Additional Information:

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 6th Edition (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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