As we pull the cold-weather gear from the closets and brace ourselves for the onset of the sniffles and coughs that come like clockwork during the winter months, it is important for parents to know that sometimes seasonal sniffles can mean more than just the common cold or flu.

Respiratory syncytial virus, referred to as RSV, is a prevalent virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms in adults and children. For premature babies or people with certain risk factors, RSV can be serious.

What is RSV?

RSV is an upper respiratory tract infection that virtually all babies contract by the time they turn 2 years old. While mild in most children, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization of infants under the age of 1, accounting for more than 125,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually. RSV is also responsible for one in every 13 visits to a pediatrician and one in every 38 emergency room trips for children up to the age of 5.

RSV recurs yearly and can be contracted more than once over a child’s lifetime. The “RSV season,” when RSV outbreaks are considered widespread in a given area, varies from year to year and state to state. In most of North America, including New York, the typical season begins in October or November and continues for four to five months.

Which babies are most at risk?

All babies are at risk for contracting RSV, especially within the first six months of life. Babies born premature (earlier than 36 weeks gestational age) are particularly vulnerable because their growth in the womb is disrupted by their early arrival. Because of this, these preemies have underdeveloped lungs and lack important antibodies they need to fight off infections.

Additional factors, such as low birth weight (less than 5½ pounds), contact with other children at daycare or through school-age siblings, a family history of asthma and exposure to tobacco smoke, also put babies at high risk for contracting RSV.

In addition, babies suffering from lung disease, heart disease or immune deficiencies should be closely watched for a longer period of time because RSV can lead to severe lower respiratory tract infections, including bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

How do I know if my child has RSV?

Common symptoms of RSV include runny nose and fever. A severe cough, persistent wheezing or difficulty breathing also may occur. Possible symptoms of a more serious infection include apnea (if the baby stops breathing for more than ten seconds), or when the baby turns blue or breathes so fast that you can’t feed the baby. It is recommended that you call your child’s pediatrician or visit the emergency room if your baby is experiencing such symptoms.

How can I keep my child safe?

Parents need to be exceptionally vigilant during the winter months when babies are most susceptible to illnesses like the common cold, flu and RSV. Keep other children and adults who have coughs and colds, or who are sneezing, away from your baby. As RSV lives in tissues and on surfaces for hours, you can also help prevent the spread of RSV by frequently cleaning your baby’s bedding, toys and personal items and asking people who touch your baby to wash their hands or use antibacterial gels.

You know your baby best; trust your instincts. Take the necessary precautions to keep your family healthy and, as always, consult a physician when you are concerned.

Basic Veggie Soup

Canned soups are often over-processed and full of salt. This will take you mere minutes to make, and it’s downright good and healthy.

Quick Spinach-White Bean Soup

Ingredients1 c. chopped onion 1 c. chopped carrot 1 c. chopped celery 2 tsp. oil 3 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach ¾ c. uncooked tubetti or ditalini pasta ½ tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. dried basil ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 1/8 tsp. garlic powder 2 (15 oz.) cans Cannellini, Great Northern or white beans, rinsed and drainedDirectionsIn a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion, carrot and celery in oil for five minutes. Add chicken broth, spinach, pasta, oregano, basil, pepper and garlic powder. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans, and cover cooking saucepan for five more minutes.YieldNutrition

Mediterranean Tomato Soup with Rice

Ingredients2 cans (14.5 ounces each) gluten-free, low-sodium chicken broth, such as Swanson’s Natural Goodness 1 can (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, including juices 1/4 c diced fresh onion 1-1/2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh oregano, basil, marjoram and rosemary, plus extra for garnish 1/2 tsp. sugar 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste 1/4 c instant brown riceDirectionsCombine all the ingredients in a two-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Brimming with the fresh herb flavors of southern France, this recipe uses instant rice that slightly thickens the soup as it cooks and gives it body. If you don’t like chunks of tomato, puree the tomatoes in a blender before you cook them. Or, puree the entire soup with an immersion blender after it has simmered 20 minutes for an extra-smooth consistency.Yield4 servingsNutrition

Snowman Cookies

Craft delightful snowman cookies with this recipe.