Doctors are warning people nationwide not to hug or kiss babies if they are feeling sick due to the risk of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common infection that can cause serious illness in infants.
"It's really not worth it," to hug or kiss a baby if you're feeling ill, pediatrician Dr. Claudia Vicetti told KWWL. "In the wintertime, especially the older adults and older children, you may not feel sick right away or sick at all."
An estimated 57,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized each year due to RSV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections often cause a mild illness with symptoms similar to the common cold, but it can also cause severe illnesses such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
"Respiratory syncytial virus just causes a lot more inflammation and secretions in the airway than some of the other typical viruses," Dr. Tiffany Hill, a pediatrician at UT Health East Texas, told KYTX. "In younger children, it can be more serious and cause a lot of issues and even hospitalizations."
Each year, one or two infants out of every 100 who are fighting RSV infections and under 6 months of age require hospitalization due to the severity of their illness, CDC officials said. The hospital stays sometimes require intubation or mechanical ventilation to help a child breathe.
"RSV creates lots and lots of mucus and their airwaves are tiny," pediatrician Stephanie Shults told WBIR. "They don't know how to cough, they don't know how to blow their (noses)."
Symptoms of RSV infections in infants include irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite and apnea, according to the CDC.
"You're looking more for respiratory effort," Shults told WBIR. "If the child's breathing more than once a second, which is 60 times a minute, they're not drinking well (and) they're not urinating as much as normal."
In adults, symptoms typically include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. However, health officials said symptoms don't always surface in infected adults.
Vicetti told KWWL that parents should take precautions and make sure people wash their hands before touching or holding their babies.
"If you have a younger infant, you're really the stopping point for the illness," Hill told KYTX. She recommended parents and caregivers get vaccinated and that they keep people who feel sick from making physical contact with their children.
"It really is better for the baby," she said, according to KYTX.
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