Father and Son

2021 RSV SEASON HAS STARTED

Common Respiratory Illnesses

The most common respiratory virus for premature babies - RSV - the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infection.

Questions & Answers

What is RSV, and what are the common symptoms?


What is RSV? RSV is a common, contagious respiratory virus. It is transmitted by droplets, but can also be transmitted by contact. RSV causes infections of the upper and lower airway of the respiratory tract and can cause inflammation, cell damage, and airway obstruction. What are the symptoms? RSV has similar symptoms to a common cold (stuffy nose, cough, sneezing and mild fever) and usually lasts between one to three weeks. More severe symptoms can include: severe cough, fever, unusual tiredness, rapid shallow breathing, poor feeding, bluish colour to skin (cyanosis), wheezing, or breathing difficulties.




Can my baby get RSV more than once?


Yes, a baby can get RSV more than once.




Why are premature babies more at risk?


Premature babies that have BPD, breathing problems, and babies that have lung or heart problems can become very sick. Some babies with RSV bronchiolitis may need oxygen or breathing assistance (mechanical ventilation).




Is RSV a seasonal illness?


RSV infections can occur anytime, but viruses that cause coughs and colds are more common during the winter months. This may be because viruses survive better in colder temperatures and drier air, or because we spend more time indoors sharing the same air.




Can an RSV infection turn into something more serious?


For most babies RSV causes mild cold-like symptoms, but RSV can also cause infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Bronchiolitis and/or pneumonia can develop from having an RSV cold. These are the leading causes of hospitalization in children under 1 year.




How common is an RSV infection?


Nearly all children will have their first RSV infection by the time they are two years old.




Are there any long term effects from an RSV infection?


Sometimes there are complications from an RSV chest infection. Some babies can continue to be wheezy and have asthma like symptoms when they have other colds.




Is there an RSV vaccine?


No. There is no vaccine for RSV. There is an antibody injection. The RSV Antibody Injection Palivizumab (Synagis®/ RSVP), a humanized monoclonal antibody, was approved in Canada in 2002 for the prevention of serious lower respiratory disease caused by RSV. It has been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations due to RSV infection in young children. Babies that are born extremely premature or have specific medical conditions may be eligible for this injection. In Canada, each province has different criteria for who receives these injections. Ask your baby’s doctor if your baby is eligible.Talk to your baby’s doctor, your baby may qualify*. *Eligibility criteria based on recommendations by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Immunization Guide. There are individual provincial criteria for injections eligibility.




How do I reduce the risk of my baby getting sick?


  • Practice proper handwashing can protect your baby
  • Protect your baby from secondhand smoke
  • Avoid crowds
  • Keep your baby’s immunizations up-to-date
  • Clean toys, cell phones, highchairs and work surfaces often
  • Keep your baby away from people who are sick




What is the most common respiratory virus?


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the most common. It has similar symptoms to a common cold (stuffy nose, cough, sneezing and mild fever) and usually lasts between one to three weeks.





 
 
 

During COVID-19

"Restrictions put in place to reduce contact, and the spread of COVID-19 may have also reduced the spread of some respiratory viruses. As restrictions ease, many respiratory illnesses are starting to spread once again, especially RSV."

Proper hand washing remains important, as do additional measures such as:

  • Follow Public Health guidelines

  • Keep immunizations up-to-date 

  • Ensure all family members get their seasonal flu shot (including babies 6 months of age and up)

  • If your baby is receiving RSV injections, make sure to continue with the schedule.

 

 To learn more about how you can reduce the risk to your baby, download or view the new CBPF Parent Handbook, "Common Respiratory Illnesses: Reducing the Risk".  

Parent Letter

In collaboration with parents, we have created a letter to download, adapt and share with your family and friends. The letter is helpful in explaining to everyone why you are being extra careful when you bring your preemie home.

Download Parent  letter (Microsoft Word 16 KB)

Podcasts

Tune into "With You in the NICU" podcasts to hear from experts, who will discuss many of the questions and concerns NICU parents often have.

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Preemie Chats

Free online events covering a host of Preemie-focused topics

New! Parent Handbook

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CBPF Parent Handbook, "Common Respiratory Ilnesses: Reducing the Risk"

This parent handbook was carefully developed by healthcare experts in the field of neonatal care. The information about common respiratory illnesses (including RSV) is thoughtfully presented in consultation with parents of preemie babies. See a page here.

PDF format 978 KB (16 pages)

New! Infographic: Why Premature Babies are more at Risk

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Premature babies are at higher risk of becoming very sick. Read why.

Respiratory viruses bring us familiar cold symptoms that last a few days to a week for most people, but

these same viruses may cause more serious illness in babies. Premature babies are at higher risk

of becoming very sick. 

PDF format 422 KB (1 page)

RSV Injection Criteria

RSV injections are not vaccines; they are antibodies which help protect high-risk babies from RSV. Eligibility criteria is based on recommendations by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Immunization Guide. ​Each province has its own eligibility criteria. Please see the individual links for more information.

RSV Survey Report

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New! National Survey Report on RSV (Summary)

A parent survey providing us with their understanding about RSV and respiratory illnesses, and their experience of obtaining this information. The results are very revealing. 

RSV Information Sheets in other Languages

Coming soon!

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A Sneak Peek from the New Parent Handbook of Common Respiratory Ilnesses: Reducing the Risk

Why preemies are at risk of becoming more sick with RSV:

Immature lungs. The lungs are among the last organs to develop before birth. Antibodies are proteins made in the body by a special type of white blood cell. They protect against viruses and bacteria that can make us sick, and help us to fight infections.

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Protective antibodies that fight infection are passed from the mother across the placenta, mostly in the last few months of pregnancy. The premature baby misses out on the full amount of these antibodies and may also have difficulty producing their own.

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New! National Survey Report on RSV (Summary)

A parent survey providing us with their understanding about RSV and respiratory illnesses, and their experience of obtaining this information. The results are very revealing. Read here.

 

RSV Injection Criteria

Eligibility criteria is based on recommendations by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Immunization GuideEach province and territory has its own eligibility criteria which varies. Choose your province to read the guidelines. If you have further questions, speak to your baby's doctor.

 

Free! Webinar: Common Winter Illnesses