September 12, 2013

When you have a medically fragile loved one, even the most common virus can wreak havoc on her health. That is why it’s so important to take precautions during the cold season.

Washing your hands frequently and avoiding exposure to others who are sick are two ways to keep your medically fragile loved one from getting RSV.

As we approach the fall and winter months, many of us will come in contact with the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a common virus that is highly contagious and affects the lungs and breathing passages.

In healthy adults and some children, RSV may produce only symptoms of a common cold. But in premature babies, as well as in children and adults with diseases that affect the lungs, heart or immune system, RSV infections can lead to more serious illnesses.

To help keep you and your family healthy during peak RSV season (mid-November through April), we’re sharing a few tips that can be quickly and easily incorporated into your daily routine.

  • Wash your hands frequently.  Hand-washing is a key factor in the prevention of any contagious disease.  Stress the importance of family and visitors washing their hands before interacting with your child, and teach siblings the importance of hand-washing.
  • Avoid exposure. Limit your child’s contact with people who have a fever or a cold.
  • Don’t smoke.  Infants that are exposed to tobacco smoke have a higher risk of contracting RSV and potentially more serious symptoms.
  • Keep it clean.  Make sure countertops and toys are kept clean. Wipe down these areas with disinfectant wipes as frequently as possible to help avoid the risk of contamination by another child or playmate.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask.  High-risk infants (those born prematurely or with congenital heart or lung disease) can be given a monthly injection of Synagis – a medication made up of RSV antibodies – during peak RSV season. Make it a point to discuss this medication with your child’s health care provider.

While the steps to prevent RSV are simple, the virus itself is very serious and can be life-threatening, especially for high-risk children and adults.  Scientists are currently working to find a vaccine against RSV, but until that day, knowledge and prevention are your best protection against all contagious diseases.

For more information about RSV, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

~ Heather Gyllenband, RN
Clinical Director – Austin, Texas