PEORIA, Ill. — This holiday season means a lot of get-togethers, crowded with family and friends.
But doctors say, this time of year is also crowded with viruses.
Many times, what seems to be a common cold can end up being a very contagious and harmful virus.
Stephanie Blue, a mother whose 13-month-old son Mico had Respiratory Syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, wants to warn other people how to keep children safe.
“His little body was just tired. This was Monday, by Tuesday he was limp,” Blue said.
Blue says babies usual breaths per minute is around 30. Mico was breathing over 70 times a minute. While she says it’s important for people to remember not to kiss or go near babies that aren’t their own, sometimes RSV can originate right at home.
“I had a cold, and there’s only so much you can do as a mom to try and distance yourself away especially when they’re a baby,” Blue said.
Dr. Nabil Hassan, Dir. of Pediatric Critical Care at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, says the virus always spreads more around the holidays.
“We usually start seeing it in the late fall. We see a spike in patients right after Thanksgiving, after people get together. And the biggest spike is actually after the Christmas holiday,” Dr. Hassan said.
The obvious thing is, don’t just kiss someone’s baby.
“It’s a droplet transition, meaning the secretions out of the nose and the saliva and all that, are through your hands and face. If you kiss the baby or touch the baby, you are really transmitting the virus,” Dr. Hassan adds.
Dr. Hassan spoke about the symptoms parents need to be aware of when a baby gets a cold or virus.
“Characteristically it has a lot of watery, nasal discharge. Like thin secretions and then start having congestion. You can hear noisy breathing and hear some coughing. Then you start seeing if it gets worse and the child starts struggling moving air in and out,” Dr. Hassan said.
“They’ll have some retractions in the chest wall or the abdomen would be moving up and down in a significant way that indicates the child is working hard to breathe air in and out,” Dr. Hassan added.
Dr. Hassan says it’s difficult to completely prevent RSV, but there are ways to alleviate the symptoms.
“Early on, treat it like any other cold. Suction the nose and clean it up. Smaller babies have narrower noses so there’s a lot of airwave resistance and it doesn’t take much to clog things up and make the child work very hard,” Dr. Hassan said.
Dr. Hassan says the course RSV takes usually goes 7-10 days. He says it’s the worst over the first 3-4 days, it stays at its peak for a few days, then starts to get better.
If you’re sick and have a holiday party to go to, Dr. Hassan says just don’t go. He adds that babies who have a medical condition are much more susceptible to viruses.
“If you have a lung disease, like lung-scarring from being prematurely born. Of if you have congenital heart disease or asthma,” Dr. Hassan said.
“Kids who have a predisposition to a severe form of RSV infection, we give them what we call immunoglobins or the natural antibodies that will produce against the virus. We give them shots of that starting from the fall all the way to the end of the winter. Usually, we do that for kids less than 2 years of age,” Dr. Hassan said.
Dr. Hassan says RSV is more harmful to smaller babies.
“Smaller babies have smaller airwaves. It doesn’t take that much inflammation in the airwave to cause a lot of obstruction so the baby will struggle moving air in and out,” Dr. Hassan said.
Dr. Hassan says his doctors will see RSV patients until April.
Blue says if you have a cold, it might just be better to not go to that holiday party.
“It’s hitting hard this year. A lot of people think RSV is just a cold. That’s not the case this year. It’s bad. It goes full-fledged very quickly,” Blue said.
Blue gives tips to parents who take their children out in public.
“Definitely keep your child covered if you’re out in restaurants with covers from the car seats. Constantly wash your hands,” Blue said.
Luckily, four days after being at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Mico is all better now and home with his family.
Dr. Hassan and Stephanie echoed the fact that good hygiene is extremely important this winter.
If your baby is starting to get what seems to be a common cold, Dr. Hassan says it’s important to keep a close eye on them, and if things start to really get worse, take them to a medical provider.