In fact, a recent survey on prematurity awareness found that 3 in 10 mothers of preemies weren’t aware of the possibility of prematurity until they had their first child. And 75% of parents don’t know the definition of prematurity. So what exactly is a preemie? Simply put, it's any baby that is born before 37 weeks gestation, which is considered full-term. Since there is so little awareness and advocacy, many parents don’t fully understand the increased risks that come with premature birth – and the extensive medical care that preemies often require.
Prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs. Prematurity can affect the brain, the heart, and most commonly, the lungs. These babies are at a much higher risk of serious medical issues and often face weeks or even months in the NICU. Seeing a tiny newborn hooked up to machines and oxygen leave families feeling powerless, anxious and isolated. On November 17 – World Prematurity Day – we’re hoping to educate all expecting parents about the possibility of and potential risks associated with preterm births.
Because their immune systems and lungs aren’t fully developed, preemies are more likely to develop infections and are more susceptible to respiratory problems. In fact, 79 percent of preemie moms have a baby who was hospitalized due to a severe respiratory infection. One virus in particular that parents of preemies should know about is respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. RSV is contracted by nearly all children by the age of two, often causing relatively minor symptoms that mimic the common cold. However, preemies are most at risk for developing much more serious symptoms, including a serious respiratory infection (severe RSV disease) from the virus, because their lungs are underdeveloped and they don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection.
I actually know of a few children who lost their lives to RSV. Two were newborns, and were preemies, and another was a beautiful 3 year old boy named Elias, who was seemingly healthy. RSV can affect any child at any time, so education is key.
Below are a few quick facts that all parents should know about RSV:
· RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, and severe RSV disease causes up to 10 times as many infant deaths each year as the flu.
· RSV is most prevalent during the winter months. The CDC has defined the “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
· In addition to prematurity, common risk factors include low birth weight, certain lung or heart diseases, a family history of asthma and frequent contact with other children.
Prevention is Key
RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Since there’s no treatment for RSV, parents should 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 are or have been sick
· Never let anyone smoke near your baby
· Speak with your child’s doctor if he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
· Severe coughing, wheezing or rapid gasping breaths
· Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
· High fever and extreme fatigue
Want to learn more about RSV and prematurity?
Please visit RSVProtection.com.
There, you can learn all about RSV, find talking points to bring up with your doctor,read personal accounts from families who have been affected by RSV, and find out when the RSV season is in your local area.
Here's to awareness and healthy, happy kids this winter season and all year long!
***Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.***