Baby Respiratory Infections

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Respiratory infections are very common in babies and the commonest cause behind it is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). This virus causes symptoms of cold and cough in adults and in children. But in small children and especially babies, the Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections are very severe. Baby respiratory infections like RSV are seen most often in children between the age of six months to two years. The outbreaks of rsv virus infections are seen in between November to April which are the colder months of the year.

RSV - Baby Respiratory Infections
RSV – Baby Respiratory Infections

Mode of Transmission

RSV spreads though droplet infection. This means if the baby is playing around an infected person who sneezes or coughs then the droplets from the sneeze could become a source of infection for the baby. These infections are also very commonly noticed in baby in daycare as the infections spreads fast from one child to the other. Touching contaminated surfaces like door knobs, handles and countertops can also cause the respiratory infection in babies as they touch these surfaces and then put their fingers in the mouth which leads to such infant respiration infections.

Baby Respiratory Infections Symptoms (RSV) in Children

The RSV symptoms resemble to the upper respiratory infection cough and sneezing. Runny nose with stuffiness and mild fever are also common symptoms. Other baby respiratory infections symptoms that are seen commonly in babies that are indicative of feeling unwell are:

  • Reduced breastfeeding
  • Constant crying
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sleeplessness at night due to coughing and wheezing
  • Poor appetite

Most of the cases of baby respiratory infections are mild and resolve with symptomatic medication but there are some cases that tend to get more severe infection from RSV, they are:

  • Premature babies
  • Children under the age of two years with a congenital heart disease or a chronic form of lung disease
  • Children with poor immunity

RSV can be a causative factor for two very common lung disorders that are bronchiolitis where the small air pockets of the lung are affected and they get filled with mucous. Another disorder associated with RSV is pneumonia with inflammation and infection of the lungs. A large percentage of children are found to have these two lung diseases when they are exposed to RSV for the first time.

Warning signs in children with RSV that should be known to you are:

  • Excessive coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficult breathing
  • Yellowish thick green mucus from the nose
  • Bluish color of the skin
  • High fever above 100 degrees(in babies who are smaller than 3 months)

Diagnosis of RSV

The symptoms of RSV in the particular age group are the main source of diagnosis. The confirmation can be done by sending a mucous sample to the laboratory for analysis. The doctor will also check the oxygen supply in the body with the help of a pulseoximeter attached to the thumb or the toe of the baby. It is a small device that gives the pulse rate and the oxygen saturation in the body.

RSV Treatment and Prevention Tips

Mild cases of RSV tend to resolve spontaneously but if the child has fever or symptoms of bronchiolitis then he might need hospitalization and oxygen supplementation. If there is pneumonia in the picture then IV fluids and antibiotics will be needed to clear up the infection.

The best way to prevent baby respiratory infections like RSV is to be aware about them and to take utmost hygiene care when you have small babies in the house. Make sure you wipe all door knobs countertops and other places your baby touches. Avoid going in crowded places with little babies as they can easily catch the droplet infection. Keep the child away from the smoke of tobacco. If there is an infected person in the house, take care that they wear a mask so that the coughing and sneezing does not put the baby at a risk of getting the infection. Also wash your hands often so that the virus does not spread when you nurse or feed your baby.

RSV Treatment - Vaporizer
RSV Treatment – Vaporizer

How to Help your Child when he has RSV?

  1. This infection is very much like a common cold so it will leave your little one irritated and cranky. Breast feed often and on demand. Also ensure that you keep the baby well hydrated.
  2. Using a mist vaporizer will help the child to breathe easy. If the nose is blocked and the baby cries at night, saline drops will be very effective.
  3. Try and keep the child away from smoke, cigarette smoke, fumes, smell of a newly painted house etc as all these can trigger cough and make breathing difficult and bring on wheezing.
  4. Always check with your doctor what medications you can give the child. Never give over the counter medicines thinking that it may be a simple cold. If the symptoms are not well attended they can go onto complications like bronchiolitis. Acetaminophen is used very commonly in such cases but the dosage needs to be determined based on the weight of the child so always check with the doctor what the correct dose is for your baby. Over dosage may be harmful to the child.

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