Due to the cold weather and this year’s intense cold and flu season, physicians at Saint Barnabas Medical Center are seeing more cases of a virus that could pose a serious threat to a child's health. It's called respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.

RSV is an easily spread virus most common from fall to spring. While most children and babies who get RSV just appear to have a cold, it can cause pneumonia and other lung problems. In severe cases it can sometimes even lead to death.

"Anybody can get RSV, but we usually worry the most about younger children and babies,” explains Timothy S. Yeh, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. "Special concern is warranted for babies who have reduced immune systems and premature infants as their lungs just aren't strong enough to handle the virus. They can get very severe infections and need to be hospitalized."

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Signs of RSV include stuffy/runny nose, sneezing and a fever. Severe RSV can include wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing.

“You might also see difficulty eating, drinking or sleeping,” says Dr. Yeh. “If a child’s skin color is blue or gray or you see any of these other severe symptoms, let your doctor know right away.”

The best protection against RSV is to have everyone wash his or her hands often and before touching a baby. The additional tips should be followed by families who have infants:

  • keep people who have colds away from your baby, including siblings
  • keep your baby away from crowds
  • wash baby's toys and bedding often
  • be sure to NOT share pacifiers, bottles, cups, forks, spoons, towels or washcloths
  • be sure to NOT smoke around your baby