When it comes to stressful things about mamahood, having a sick baby is right up there at the top of the list. And knowing when to take a baby with RSV to the hospital is not always easy.
Let’s tackle this together.
In this article: 📝
- Should a baby with RSV be hospitalized?
- What would be an emergency in an infant with RSV?
- How do you know if RSV is getting worse?
- Managing RSV from home
Should a baby with RSV be hospitalized?
RSV (or Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is both very common and highly contagious.
In fact, almost all children will get it at some point before the age of two.
In most cases, it shows up like a cold—but in some, it can be very dangerous and require hospitalization.
According to the CDC, one or two out of every 100 babies with RSV need to receive hospital care.
RSV causes respiratory illness, meaning that it affects your breathing. Common RSV symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Trouble feeding.
RSV is spread via:
- Person-to-person contact
- Infected surfaces and objects.
The virus is pretty resilient and is able to survive on surfaces for up to six hours.
Because of how RSV spreads, your baby is more susceptible to it in the colder months when people crowd indoors.
Likewise, if they are around a lot of other kids in a daycare setting or group activity, their chances of catching it go up.
What would be an emergency in an infant with RSV?
In more severe cases, RSV can cause bronchitis and pneumonia—and that’s when emergency treatment may be necessary.
At the hospital, they might do a swab test in your baby’s nose to check if it’s RSV. They could also do a chest x-ray.
If your baby needs hospital treatment, the doctor might put them on a breathing machine and give them oxygen. They may also give them an IV to get their fluids up.
Babies younger than three months have a much higher risk of severe illness, particularly if they were born prematurely or at a low birth weight.
Other risk factors are:
- Heart and lung conditions
- Weakened immune systems because of other illnesses or medications
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
How do you know if RSV is getting worse?
The main sign to watch out for is trouble breathing. Get to the emergency room if you notice that your baby’s:
- Breathing is fast and shallow
- Ribs look like they are caving in when they inhale
- Nostrils look like they are spreading out when they breathe in
- Breathing contains grunting sounds or wheezing.
Other signs to watch out for are:
- Dehydration. Signs include dry mouth, drier diapers, fussiness, fatigue, dark eyes, and rapid heartbeat.
- Blueish color to the tongue, lips, or skin
- Not being as alert as usual
- High fever. If they are younger than three months, a fever higher than 100.4℉ is worth checking out. And if they are older than three months, anything over 102℉ is cause for concern.
- Thick green or gray mucus in the mouth or nose.
Managing RSV from home
In less severe cases, RSV can run its course at home.
Recuperating at home will mostly involve rest and hydration.
How should a baby sleep with RSV?
This is tricky. Because their little bodies are fighting hard to get rid of the infection, they might be sleepier than usual.
But, because the infection is interfering with their breathing, sleep may not be as easy to come by.
So, while they might be fatigued, they might not be able to get the long stretches of sleep they need.
Here are some ways to help comfort them at home:
- Keep them as hydrated as possible. For babies younger than six months, this means extra breastmilk or formula. Old babies can also drink extra water.
- Use a cool-mist vaporizer
- Saline nose drops can help relieve congestion
- Over-the-counter cold and fever medications may be appropriate. But check in with your doctor first, as some are not recommended for children.
How long does RSV last in babies?
If they have a mild case, it should last between five and seven days.
Symptoms usually pop up somewhere between two and eight days after infection.
With all the hygiene and social distancing measures we’ve been taking during the Covid-19 pandemic, incidents of RSV have decreased.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like it is staying that way. A resurgence is happening in various places in the world as people start to interact again.
All the things that we have learned during the pandemic are important here too—frequent handwashing, coughing into your elbow instead of your hand, wiping down high-touch surfaces, and staying home when you’re sick can all help stop the spread.
And if you need some support, join us on Peanut. Lots of mamas have dealt with RSV and can offer you advice and support!
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