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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Baby lung virus campaign launched
Premature baby
Premature babies are at risk from RSV
Parents of premature babies are being given advice on how to prevent their child developing a lung virus.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) affects the breathing of children who contract it - often forcing them to fight for breath.


Few things are more distressing than watching a baby struggle for breath

British Lung Foundation

It is a highly contagious, though usually mild and harmless, virus which causes life-threatening chest infections in some infants but mere cold symptoms in others.

The condition is particularly prevalent among babies born before 35 weeks into pregnancy - they do not have the ability to fight the infection.

The British Lung Foundation is holding the Little Lungs Are For Life campaign at Llandough Hospital, Cardiff, on Monday in a bid to raise awareness of the condition.

The UK has one of the lowest rates of preventative treatment of the condition in Europe.

Preventative measures to reduce the risk of babies contracting RSV include:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Prompt disposal of used tissues
  • Not smoking in front of the baby
  • Avoiding contact with people with colds

By the age of two, most children have been affected by RSV.

Symptoms of the virus usually appear in the form of a common cold.

But as it spreads to the lungs, the condition leads to coughing, difficulty breathing and wheezing.

'Parents' nightmare'

More than 40,000 premature babies are born each year in the UK.

Babies who are born full-term are also at risk from developing the condition during the first four weeks of life.

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Few things can be more distressing than watching a baby or child struggle for breath.

"It's every parent's nightmare and yet it is something that thousands of families across Britain have to face when their child has a lung disease."

Around 3% of sufferers have to be treated in hospital, with 2 to 3% of those babies needing intensive care treatment. About one in 10 of these critically ill infants will die.


More from south east Wales
See also:

28 Jan 02 | Health
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17 Sep 01 | Health
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