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Pediatricians warn of respiratory viruses for infants this time of year

Pediatrician Charles Goodman, left, explains to Frank Fierro, the father of 1 year-old Cameron Fierro, the need of getting the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif.

EUGENE, Ore. - A health clinic in Eugene is seeing a spike in respiratory viruses in infants, which could potentially be very harming for those who are infected.

For adults, a respiratory virus can mimic a common cold, but for infants, it could turn into something much more severe.

One common virus for infuants is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

"It can cause wheezing, and it can look a lot like asthma," said Dr. Laura Sanderson, a pediatrician with Oregon Medical Group. "It can settle more in the lungs and what we call bronchiolitis."

RSV sends more than 57,000 children under the age of 5 to the hospital every year, according to the CDC, and in rare cases, it can even lead to death.

"It can occasionally cause apnea, which is where the baby stops breathing," said Dr. Sanderson.

Right now, Dr. Sanderson says the big concern is human parainfluenza viruses, which cause croup, identified by a dry wheezing cough. Her clinic in Eugene has already seen an unusually high number of croup cases this fall.

Respiratory illnesses are contagious, and viruses, spread by coughing, can cling to door knobs, cribs and other surfaces.

"That's usually how kids get sick - by getting the germs in their hands then touching their face," said Dr. Sanderson.

That's why proper hand washing is key, for babies and older siblings alike.

Keep in mind that these viruses are common, but parents should take their infant to see a doctor if a cold gets worse, if it comes with a fever, or you hear wheezing or rapid breathing. Otherwise, practicing good hygiene is the best way to keep your little ones safe.

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