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Shaking hands and kissing babies — not so fast!

Dec. 24, 2019

Shaking hands and kissing babies — not so fast!
Everyone loves a baby. However, with millions of people traveling during the holiday season and some of them coming right into your home, it’s important to recognize how to keep your little ones healthy, especially when illnesses such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) run rampant. Your first step should be putting an embargo on all baby kisses.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms. While most people recover quickly from RSV, it is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, the inflammation of lung airways, and pneumonia in infants. It can also cause serious illness in older adults.

“While almost all children will have had RSV at least once by the time they turn 2, it can be serious for some,” says Dr. Maria Gray, a board-certified pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Ask your guests and those you see over the holidays to avoid getting close to your infant if they are feeling sick, and definitely ensure that they refrain from kissing or touching your baby’s face or hands.”

Know the signs of RSV
RSV is spread when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. The virus can survive on surfaces, such as doorknobs and handrails, and is shared through direct physical contact, such as kissing. People with RSV are usually contagious for up to eight days, though some can continue spreading the virus for up to one month, even when they are no longer showing signs of the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of RSV include:
  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
Parents of infants with RSV may notice fussiness, sleepiness and difficulty breathing. While most will recover on their own in a week or two, infants younger than 6 months old might require hospitalization if they are having difficulty breathing or are dehydrated.

Stop the spread of RSV
“There are a variety of steps you can take to protect your infant,” Dr. Gray says. “Keep them away from those who are sick, wash their hands — along with your own hands — with soap and water often, and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.”

Dr. Gray also recommends that you cover your baby’s carrier with a blanket when out in public. This keeps strangers from getting too close and it also serves as a physical barrier to others’ respiratory droplets from sneezes, coughs, drips or exhalations.

If you are showing signs of the virus, the CDC reports you can prevent spreading RSV by doing the following:
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve — never use your hands.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact — kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and utensils — with others.
  • Clean contaminated surfaces.
Most importantly, refrain from kissing infants and other high-risk children, such as children with chronic lung or heart conditions and children with weakened immune systems, while you have cold-like symptoms.

Talk to your child’s doctor if they are showing signs of RSV. There is no specific treatment for RSV, though it is important to keep sick children well-hydrated and manage their fever and discomfort due to RSV. Always consult your child’s care provider before giving them medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.

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