As many of you know, one of my greatest passions in life is raising public awareness of spina bifida and the challenges that affect people living with SB, as well as the accomplishments, talents, and abilities of these very people.
Along the way, I have become aware of so many other worthy causes, in particular other serious conditions and illnesses that also deserve awareness and publicity. It is in sharing information about these causes that I find great purpose.
November 17th is World Prematurity Day. (It’s actually the day after my birthday!)
With many wonderful awareness initiatives, walks, and fundraisers that now take place nationally, it’s awesome to see that much of the public is now more informed about the incidence of premature births.
What many don’t know about, however, is a disease that affects many premature babies– respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
It was the lack of awareness of spina bifida that encouraged me to begin writing this blog in the first place. And now, it’s the lack of awareness of RSV among parents that has compelled me to partner with MedImmune to share this vital, potentially life-saving, information.
RSV is a very common seasonal virus that affects nearly 100% of babies by the age of 2.
Here are some fast facts about RSV and prematurity that every parent needs to know:
- Each year worldwide, 13 million babies are born prematurely
- 75% of parents don’t know the definition of prematurity (birth at or before 37 weeks gestation)
- Most pregnant women don’t ask their healthcare provider about the risk of delivering prematurely and the potential consequences of preterm birth for their child
- Severe RSV disease is the leading cause of infant hospitalizations in the U.S., with approximately 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 200 infant deaths each year.
- RSV season usually occurs from November through March for most of the U.S., but it varies regionally, and from year to year.
Most of the moms I’ve befriended or who befriend me on social media have a child with spina bifida. As pillars of strength and examples of grace and perseverance for their families, these women would do anything for their families, and it would break my heart to hear of one of their children falling ill with RSV, especially with everything else they already have to deal with because of spina bifida.
This is why I feel it’s so important for me to share the symptoms and warning signs to look out for when diagnosing RSV. Parents, please be on high alert if your child exhibits any of these symptoms:
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Bluish color around the lips, mouth, or fingernails
- Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
- Fever (especially if it is over 100.4°F [rectal] in infants under 3 months of age)
There is no specific treatment for RSV disease, so prevention is your best bet. That being said, here are a few simple parents should take to help reduce the risk of your child getting RSV, particularly during high season, which is from November through March:
- Understand the risk factors and ask your child’s pediatrician if your child may be at increased risk
- Wash your hands and ask others to do the same
- Keep toys, clothes, blankets, and sheets clean
- Avoid crowds and other young children during RSV season
Yes, this information may seem very overwhelming, and I’m sure that it’s nothing that parents want to even think about. But, as the tired old saying goes, “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” and by taking the proper precautions, parents, especially those whose children have other health issues, will have one less thing to worry about.
And it’s never too early– or premature— to take good care of our children!
For more information and tips, you can visit www.RSVprotection.com.