Tomorrow, November 17th is World Prematurity Day. Did you know that worldwide, 13 million babies are born early every year, including more than half a million in the United States? Despite these staggering numbers, many parents still aren’t aware of prematurity—the leading cause of neonatal death.
Prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs. These babies are at an increased risk of serious medical complications and regularly face weeks or even months in the NICU. This often contributes to mothers feeling powerless, anxious and isolated.
Because their immune systems and lungs aren’t fully developed, preemies are more likely to develop infections and are more susceptible to respiratory problems. In fact, 79 percent of preemie moms have a baby who was hospitalized due to a severe respiratory infection. One virus in particular that parents of preemies should know about is respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. RSV is contracted by nearly all children by the age of two, often causing relatively minor symptoms that mimic the common cold. However, preemies are most at risk for developing much more serious symptoms, including a serious respiratory infection (severe RSV disease) from the virus, because their lungs are underdeveloped and they don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection. Below are a few quick facts that all parents should know about RSV:
RSV Quick Facts
- RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, and severe RSV disease causes up to 10 times as many infant deaths each year as the flu.
- RSV is most prevalent during the winter months. The CDC has defined the “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
- In addition to prematurity, common risk factors include low birth weight, certain lung or heart diseases, a family history of asthma and frequent contact with other children.
Prematurity and RSV in the U.S. Hispanic Community
- The current rate of preterm births in the U.S. Hispanic community is 11.66 percent. Since 2006, the preterm rate has declined 5 percent for Hispanic infants.
- Data indicate that infants from U.S. Hispanic communities are at increased risk to develop severe RSV disease; while the exact reason for the increased risk is unknown, the increased prematurity rate is likely a contributing factor.
- Two-thirds of U.S. Hispanic mothers have never heard of RSV, and one in five U.S. Hispanic moms only becomes aware of RSV once their child has contracted the virus.
Prevention is Key
RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Since there’s no treatment for RSV, parents should take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
- Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
- Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid large crowds and people who are or have been sick
- Never let anyone smoke near your baby
- Speak with your child’s doctor if he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available
Know the Symptoms
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
- Severe coughing, wheezing or rapid gasping breaths
- Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
- High fever and extreme fatigue
Disclosure: This is a compensated post with Latina Bloggers Connect