Did you know that worldwide, 13 million babies are born early every year, including more than half a million in the United States? Even with such a large number, many parents don't know about prematurity or that it is the leading cause of neonatal death. Preemie Awareness Day is November 17; TODAY, and a day that focuses on bringing awareness to premature infants and the many trials they face.
Understanding premature infants?
So when is a child considered a premature infant? A baby is considered premature if they are born at or before 37 weeks. I always thought they had to be born a lot sooner than that; but not so!
Why is there such an impact with being born so early? Prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, meaning many of their organs are not allowed to fully develop before they are born. These are functions that are suppose to take place while still in the womb.
Because of the underdeveloped organs,these babies are at an increased risk of serious medical complications and regularly face weeks or even months in the NICU. The concern for a Premature infant's health doesn't go away as they begin to grow up. Many times they are far more susceptible than any other child for RSV, colds, flu and other health problems. It's no surprise that parents of premature children take more precautions. But many parents don't fully understand what prematurity is. So we are helping to spread the word; trying to let parents more fully understand what a premature infant is; and what they will face.
Why I am concerned with Premature Infants and Preemie awareness day?
If you think back a year ago; I told you about my niece Rachel. She and her twin brother Sam were both premature infants. So were both of her little brothers. In fact more than 6 of my nieces and nephews were born premature! But my family isn't the only area where I have experience with premature infants. Many of my very close friends have had premature babies and have had to face the challenges it brings. Some of these children have passed away due to health related issues due to being premature causing heartache, and grief. But most of them are still alive. Some suffer with health issues, others with developmental delays; and others have no signs whatsoever that they were born premature. You just never know what you will face as each child is different. But many of the trials that a parent needs to guard against are the same.
Trials faced by premature infants and their family.
Because the immune systems and lungs of a premature infant are not 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. The most common and yet dangerous virus parents of preemies need to understand and guard against 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. But preemies face the risk of 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.
Understanding RSV and premature infants:
- 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.
Symptoms of RSV
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
How to Prevent RSV
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
To learn more about RSV, visit RSV protection and for more about the specialized health needs of preterm infants, visit Preemie Voices.
Do you know anyone that was born premature?
What are you experiences with premature Infants and RSV?
Be sure to share this article with anyone that you feel may benefit from understanding more about RSV and premature infants.
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.