Don't Kiss Babies If You Feel or Are Sick, Doctor Warns Amid RSV Season

Doctors have warned people who are feeling sick not to kiss babies, to stop the spread of a potentially dangerous infection.

Tiffany Hill, a pediatrician at UT Health East Texas, told ABC affiliate WFAA that children under six-months-old are particularly vulnerable to what is known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). She made the warning amid RSV season in the U.S., which runs from October to March.

In most people, the bug causes mild symptoms similar to a cold, like a runny nose, a drop in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In very young infants, the symptoms can be just irritability, breathing difficulties, and decreased activity, according to the CDC. For most people, the condition clears up in a week or two.

The CDC states most children will have an RSV infection by their second birthday. For children under the age of one year, RSV can cause serious complications. It is the most common cause of the lung inflammation condition bronchitis in this group, as well as pneumonia where the lungs become infected. Older adults are also at risk.

Hill told the broadcaster: "In the younger children, it can be more serious and cause a lot of issues and even hospitalizations."

She explained RSV "just causes a lot more inflammation and secretions in the airway then some of the other typical viruses."

As there is no cure for the virus, parents must treat the symptoms by giving their children fluids, using humidifiers, and administering saline washes, said Hill, in order to help sufferers breathe and stay hydrated.

The CDC states that while most healthy adults and infants with RSV won't need to be hospitalized, some, particularly infants younger than 6-months-old and older adults, may need not be hospitalized to treat their dehydration and breathing problems.

Hill advised the parents of children who test positive for RSV to revisit the doctor if their symptoms don't improve.

Some cases can become so severe that babies are fitted with a breathing tube, Hill said. "Then they just cannot air it, those lungs and the babies will pass away."

A person with RSV can spread the illness by coughing and sneezing, enabling the resulting droplets to land in other people's eyes, nose or mouth. It is also passed on when a person touches a contaminated surface and then their face. Direct contact with the virus, for instance by kissing the face of a child with RSV, can also cause it to jump from person to person, the CDC warned.

The agency said people with cold-like symptoms should cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze with a tissue or upper shirt sleeve (not their hands); wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds; and avoid close contact like kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils with other people

Hill advised parents to be careful about who makes close contact with their children, ensuring those who are or feel sick don't make physical contact.

"It really is better for the baby, so you can shed the virus for really three to eight days after being sick," said Hill.

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A stock image shows a mom and dad kissing a baby. Experts urge those who feel sick not to kiss babies during RSV season. Getty
Don't Kiss Babies If You Feel or Are Sick, Doctor Warns Amid RSV Season | Health