Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Are Babies Who Are Hospitalized for RSV at Increased Risk for Other Illnesses?

Q&A on viruses

Emily Oster

2 min Read

My two-month-old (born at 36 weeks) was in the ICU for 11 days with RSV last month. Is he more likely to be hospitalized in the future with respiratory viruses? How risky is it to fly with him to visit grandparents for the holidays?

—Kelsey

First of all, I am sorry you went through this. It must have been incredibly scary, and I’m glad you all are doing all right.

There are two parts to your question, with slightly different answers. To the first question: infants who are hospitalized with RSV in their first year of life — preterm or not — do seem to be at higher risk for breathing-related issues later. This doesn’t necessarily mean hospitalization, but these children are at increased risk for recurrent wheezing and for developing asthma. In the case of asthma, the risk is higher if there is a family history of asthma. Not every child with these risk factors develops these issues, and the majority of them do not. But it is something your doctor will keep an eye on and something for you to be aware of. 

The second question is whether you should fly with your infant for the holidays. I can see the desire for caution, but it isn’t clear that the immediate risks to your infant from this kind of travel are higher than they would be otherwise. It’s always useful to be a little cautious about germ exposure and travel with a baby, but the fact that he had RSV a month ago isn’t a strong reason to avoid more. 

If you do travel, here are some thoughts on traveling safely with a baby. Most important: remember the biggest risks are likely from the people you’re visiting, not from the airplane. So try to make sure they’re not sick and that everyone washes their hands!

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☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
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