When Your Baby Has More than Just the Common Cold
Infant Respiratory Syncytial Virus
New mothers want to provide their baby with the best care. Despite our best efforts, sometimes our babies do get sick. While even seeing our child with the common cold can be difficult, with ample rest and nutrition as well as safeguarding from the environment, your baby can be nursed back to health in no time.
However, there are cases when the baby shows signs of the common cold but may be experiencing a condition caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV. RSV presents initially like a cold which can develop into a serious respiratory illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia that can cause a baby to get very sick. Nevertheless, mothers, Have No Fear! We will help you to identify RSV signs so that you can provide appropriate care for your baby. The fact is most babies get RSV at least once before age 2 so the illness is common and with proper care should be no reason to worry.
Symptoms of the common cold include: Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher, Cough, Congestion, Sneezing, Runny nose, Fussiness, and Poor feeding.
Generally, most healthy infants with strong immune systems will get better within 5-7 days after experiencing a cold and being given appropriate care.
However, some may experience respiratory infection afterward. Symptoms of this include cold symptoms PLUS…
- Fast breathing
- Flaring of the nostrils
- Head bobbing with breathing
- Rhythmic grunting during breathing
- Belly breathing, tugging between their ribs, and/or tugging at the lower neck
You should take special care to observe your baby’s breathing. If the baby has to work hard to breathe, his or her chest wall will cave in and out.
Infants with RSV usually recover from the infection on their own, however, if your baby experiences the following, contact your doctor:
- Bronchiolitis symptoms mentioned above
- fewer than 1 wet diaper every 8 hours (a symptom of dehydration)
- difficulty breathing or pauses
- Gray or blue color to tongue, lips, or skin
- A decrease in activity and alertness
- No improvement in symptoms after 7 days
- The temperature of 100.4°F or higher (For babies 12 weeks or younger).
- Temperature over 104°F repeatedly
- Poor sleep or fussiness, chest pain, ear tugging, or ear drainage
Babies are at higher risk for RSV when they are younger, if they were born prematurely, suffer from chronic lung disease, have heart defects, weaker immunity due to illness and treatments, low birth weight, smoking, and crowded living. To decrease risk, you can understand how it is spread. RSV is spread through direct contact with infected individuals — their hands, mucus, saliva, nasal discharge — as well as unclean objects such as toys or doorknobs.
So you may ask yourself, how do I prevent my infant from getting RSV in the first place?
It is important to keep babies away from friendly kisses from those who may be sick, including yourself. Especially during flu season, the baby will be more likely to catch infection if they are in direct contact with someone who is contagious. Limit your baby’s exposure at least temporarily to help keep them safe. Additionally, make sure anyone who is around your infant has washed their hands thoroughly.
Another precaution is to make sure you and your baby are vaccinated during the flu season. Babies should be fed breastmilk to help stimulate development of antibodies that fight infections and increase immunity. Moreover, the baby should be kept in a clean, disinfected environment so he or she is not exposed to harmful germs.
Even the best-made plans can be foiled by nature. If your baby does contract respiratory infection or even a severe cold, you can care for them in specific ways. While RSV has no cure, there are some ways to help your child feel more at ease.
- Nasal saline with gentle suctioning for easier breathing.
- Cool-mist humidifier to decrease dryness.
- Fluids and frequent feedings to help stay hydrated.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if older than 6 months) to help with low-grade fevers. Avoid aspirin and cough and cold medications.