Now that we Houstonians have emerged from the shock of our city’s devastating flood and moved on to repair and recovery, we need to be aware of some post-disaster issues in our midst. A large swath of the Gulf Coast just experienced a collective trauma, affecting everything from our homes and neighborhoods to our schedules and health. As resilient as they are, our children are not immune to the effects of the damage and disruption.
Cold season is well under way. For most of us, this means putting up with a week or two of sneezing, nasal congestion and cough. For babies, though, the same viruses that are a nuisance for their parents and older siblings can pose a real danger.
December and January typically see a peak in a number of respiratory viruses. Among them are respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, plus a host of other viruses that have similar effects. Most people infected with RSV, young and old, develop an upper respiratory infection— basically cold symptoms from the neck up. The younger the patient is, though, the higher the risk of developing more serious illness. Infants, especially young babies born prematurely, are at higher risk of developing a lower respiratory infection, involving the lungs.
One of the most common concerns pediatricians hear from parents is their baby’s head looks flat. We call this condition plagiocephaly. Doctors examine babies from head to toe to distinguish between a temporary, self-limited problem and one that needs further evaluation or treatment.
When we are born, the skull bones are only loosely joined together. This unfused structure allows the skull to conform to the narrow birth canal when we are born and it allows for the rapid brain development and resulting head growth that occurs in the first year of life. Babies are regularly born with oddly shaped heads, but over days to weeks their heads become more symmetrical.