05 January 2016

Cold (flu) Seasons for Premature Babies and the Danger

You’ve most likely begun to hear many people coughing and sneezing. This is as a result of the arrival of Cold and flu season. As a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) parent, these sounds can make you panic, this is because you aren’t just worried catching a cold or the flu but worried about RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)!

With a premature baby, the immune system is weaker and premature babies have a higher chance of being re-admitted to hospital after being sent home. That means that for the first few months you need to be extra careful - especially during the colder months when cold and flu viruses are circulating.

Influenza (also called flu) is a serious disease. It’s more than just a runny nose and sore throat. The flu can make a baby very sick. It’s really important for babies and young children to be protected from the flu. 
  • Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old.
  • Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.
  • Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.
  • Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.
  • Flu seasons vary in severity, however some children die from flu each year. Last influenza season, more than 140 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported. Information about pediatric deaths since the 2004-2005 flu season is available in the interactive pediatric death web application.
The flu spreads easily from person to person. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or speaks, the virus spreads through the air. Your baby can get infected with the flu if she breathes the virus in or if she touches something (like a toy) that has the flu virus on it and then touches her nose, eyes or mouth.

RSV is a very common infection that makes the rounds every cold and flu season. RSV is a very common virus that affects almost ⅔rds of infants in their first year. In preterm infants born at 35 weeks or earlier, (≤35 weeks Gestational Age), or those with certain heart or lung problems, RSV can lead to a serious lung infection and hospitalization. It affects most children by 2 years of age.

It’s just a fact of life, however, that babies and kids born early are more likely to get sick than those born at full term. A preemie may already have weak lungs along with an immune system so immature that it is essentially non existent, and infections like RSV are no joke. Even the common cold can send a preemie to the hospital!

Get your seasonal flu shot and encourage anyone else who will be around a preemie to do the same. That one tiny jab not only protects you from the flu, but also helps you avoid passing on the flu if you practice good hand washing habits.

Keeping preemies safe from RSV, and from other illnesses like colds and the flu, can be hard on parents, but family and friends like you can make it that much easier. Some extra attention to health and hand washing on your part may be just what it takes to get the family of a premature infant or child through fall and winter cold-, flu-, and RSV-free.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by the Nursery Study

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