Why are some babies at high risk for RSV?
While all babies are at risk for getting RSV, high-risk babies face an increased risk of severe RSV disease. These include:
Newborns who are born prematurely (at 35 weeks or less) and are of age or younger at the start of RSV season.
A baby who is born prematurely is vulnerable to severe RSV disease because they were born before their lungs could fully develop, which makes it harder to fight infection.
- Chronic Lung Disease (or CLD)
If your baby has CLD and is 24 months of age or less at the beginning of RSV season, he or she may be at high risk for severe RSV disease.
CLD is a result of injury to the lungs. Some of the causes of lung injury include:
- Being born prematurely—preemies do not have fully developed lungs
- Having low amounts of surfactant (a substance in the lungs that helps keep the tiny air sacs open)
- Receiving high concentrations of oxygen, which can damage the cells of the lungs
- Congenital Heart Disease (or CHD)
If your baby has CHD and is 24 months of age or less at the beginning of RSV season, he or she may be at high risk for severe RSV disease.
There are many different kinds of heart conditions, such as:
- The heart is not pumping well
- There’s a “hole” between 2 sides of the heart
- Having a heart valve that isn’t working the way it should
- Damage to a chamber or blood vessel, or even being born without a chamber
Ask your baby’s healthcare provider if he or she is at high risk for severe RSV disease.
High-risk babies may not have enough antibodies to fight RSV disease
What are antibodies and why are they important to high-risk infants?
Antibodies are made by the body to fight infections and are an important part of the immune system. High-risk infants may not produce enough virus-fighting antibodies to provide protection from RSV.
During pregnancy, antibodies are passed from a mother to her baby.
Premature infants get fewer antibodies from the mother compared to full-term infants
- In the months after birth, the amount of these antibodies decreases
- With fewer antibodies to protect them, it’s harder for these infants to fight RSV infections