Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Life as expectant parents is joyous and celebratory. In most cases, babies arrive on time, healthy and ready to head home with Mom and Dad. But for the more than half a million American babies born prematurely each year, this often isn’t the case. Many parents of preterm infants are unprepared for the special medical care preemies often require. According to a March of Dimes survey, this is because most expecting parents don’t discuss preterm birth with their doctor during prenatal care, even if they are at high risk. On November 17 - World Prematurity Day - we’re hoping to help change this.
Despite recent slight declines in rates of prematurity, 1,400 babies are still born prematurely in the United States every day, and 13 million babies are affected by prematurity around the world. Prematurity, defined as being born before 37 weeks completed gestation, disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs. At birth, preemies often have difficulty with breathing, feeding and maintaining temperature. Because their immune systems haven’t had time to fully mature, preterm infants are more likely to develop infections, and because their lungs are underdeveloped, they are more susceptible to respiratory problems.
For example, nearly every baby contracts respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) by age two. In most full-term babies, symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and parents may not even know their child has the virus. However, because they don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection, preterm infants—even those born just a few weeks early—are at increased risk for developing an RSV-related infection, often requiring medical attention or hospitalization. Parents should speak with their pediatrician to find out if their baby is at high risk for developing severe RSV disease, and how they can prevent against RSV this winter.
RSV Quick Facts:
· RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 infant deaths each year.
· RSV occurs in epidemics each fall through spring. The CDC has defined “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
· Certain regions have longer RSV seasons than others, with the season beginning as early as July (e.g., Florida) or ending in April.
· Despite its prevalence, one-third of mothers have never heard of RSV.
Prevention is Key:
There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
· Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
· Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
· Avoid large crowds and people who may be sick
· Never let anyone smoke near your baby
· Speak with your child’s doctor if you believe he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available
Be Aware of Symptoms:
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
· Persistent coughing or wheezing
· Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
· Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
· High fever
· Extreme fatigue
· Difficulty feeding
To learn more about RSV, visit www.rsvprotection.com. For more about the specialized health needs of preterm infants, visit www.preemievoices.com.
Disclaimer: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.