Don't kiss babies, local doctors warn of respiratory virus

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- The risk of spreading the R-S-V virus this time of year has doctors advising adults to put their emotions in check -- and not to kiss or hug babies -- if they think they might have a cold. 

What seems like a common cold to an adult can cause a lot of damage to a tiny baby.

 "RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus," said Dr. David Wathen, a SLU Care pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. "It is a virus which can be commonly equated to a respiratory infection or an upper respiratory infection and seems to cause significant illness in infants as well as the elderly."

"Infants are at the highest risk, mostly under the age of a year but it can affect kids up to approximately two years of ages," Dr. Wathen tells KMOX.  "The ones we worry about the most are those who have an immune deficiency.  Also those with lung or airway abnormalities or heart problems."

Many of those infants end up hospitalized on oxygen or a ventilator due to serious respiratory problems.

"RSV usually begins as a runny nose, usually quite profuse congestion associated with that and a fairly harsh cough," said Dr. Wathen.  "Those symptoms will then progress over several days and can lead to some difficulty breathing -- as well as eating and drinking especially in infants."

He says the holidays are a prime time for RSV.

"It's very common especially this time of year," Dr. Wathen said.  "The most frequent time we see it in this area would be from about November through April."

The RSV virus is spread by contact -- so adults need to be careful around babies.  Some doctors are even advising people who feel ill to avoid kissing or hugging babies or elderly relatives at holiday parties.

"I frequently tell families that this is the time to use SKYPE or FaceTime if you really want to see the baby or your loved one," said Dr. Wathen. "It's best to stay away until your symptoms pass and always remember to practice good hand hygiene, wash your hands and keep hand sanitizer with you."

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