How To Help Protect Babies This Holiday Season From RSV, A Common & Contagious Virus

Posted: December 12, 2016 | Word Count: 569
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With the holidays approaching, we prepare for celebrations and gatherings with our family and friends. What many people may forget, however, is that this time of year also brings cold/flu season and the spread of germs. It’s especially important for parents and caregivers to keep this top of mind and be aware of seasonal illnesses that often circulate this time of year.

In particular, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a highly contagious and common virus contracted by nearly 100 percent of children by the age of two.1 RSV occurs in epidemics, typically from November through March in most of the US, but the “RSV season” can vary by geography and from year to year. 2

In many babies, the virus leads to a mild respiratory infection with symptoms similar to the common cold or flu, but can develop into a much more severe infection in high-risk infants including babies born prematurely (earlier than 35 weeks gestation). 2, 3 In fact, preterm infants are twice as likely as full-term infants to be admitted to the hospital for RSV-related symptoms. 3

Dr. Paul Checchia, Professor of Pediatrics, Critical Care Medicine and Cardiology, Texas Children’s Hospital states, “RSV disease is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies during their first year of life in the United States and results in up to 10 times as many infant deaths each year than the flu. 4, 5 It’s critical for parents to keep a close eye on their infants and go to their pediatrician when they show signs of illness.”

Dr. Checchia says the potential signs and symptoms of severe RSV disease that parents need to pay attention to are coughing or wheezing, fast or troubled breathing, spread-out nostrils and/or a caved-in chest when trying to breathe, bluish color around the mouth or fingernails, and a fever (especially if it is over 100.4°F [rectal]). 6, 7

Currently, there is no treatment for RSV disease, so taking the proper preventive methods is crucial to helping to protect your baby’s little lungs. Preventive methods include diligently washing your hands and asking others to do the same, avoiding those who may be sick during RSV season, and asking your child’s pediatrician if he or she may be at high risk for RSV disease and ways you can help protect a high-risk baby. 8

Take charge this holiday season by keeping your babies safe. For more information about RSV disease, visit Here you can find helpful tips on talking to your pediatrician, data about the RSV season in your area, and real stories of families’ experiences with RSV disease.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Red Book: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Pickering LK, ed. 30th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2015.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection and Incidence. Accessed November 17, 2016.
  3. Boyce TG, et al. Rates of hospitalizations for respiratory syncytial virus infection among children in Medicaid. J Pediatr. 2000; 137:865-870.
  4. Leader S, Kohlhase K. Respiratory syncytial virus-coded pediatric hospitalizations, 1997 to 1999. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002; 21:629-632.
  5. Thompson WW, Shay DK, Weintraub E, et al. Mortality Associated With Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus in the United States. JAMA. 2003; 289:179-186.
  6. Medline Plus. Medical Encyclopedia: Bronchiolitis. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Accessed November 17, 2016.
  7. Merck Manual Professional Version. Fever in Infants and Children. Accessed November 17, 2016.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transmission and Prevention. Accessed November 17, 2016.

3310100 Last Updated 11/16

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