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Facts about RSV and baby etiquette.
“For most infants, respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus (RSV) causes an illness like a common cold. But some babies may be at high risk for severe RSV disease. This can lead to serious complications.”
This is a HUGE stress on a preemie mom and on new mothers of full term babies as well. It has recently been brought to my attention that toddlers can be affected as well. It has serious risks that can be fatal. I know first hand how frustrating and tiring it can be to educate people about RSV. The more people know, the better. We can help keep these babies healthy. We can also help, aid and support moms in their effort to keep their babies healthy.
When I had my first child in 1997 I was blissfully unaware of this thing called “RSV”. In 2000 when my second was born I heard rumblings of this virus and one of my co-workers sons was hospitalized for it. I amped up my protection a bit for my daughter but I wasn’t that worried about it. In 2006 I was unforgettably schooled in RSV very quickly.
I have a high pain tolerance so when I contracted HELLP in my 7th month of pregnancy I was shocked. Apparently my liver and kidneys had failed days before that and here I was walking around making my kids breakfast! I was rushed into Boston for an emergency c-section where I delivered a 3.5 lb 31 weeker. She was strong. Her only weakness was apnea and she was allowed to go home after a long, tiring 7 weeks. Nothing like caring for a preemie by yourself when you have health problems of your own. My mom and dad went home, my husband went to work, all my friends worked full time so I was left pretty much to fend for myself. While I was at the hospital the pounded into my brain the dangers of RSV to a preemie. Since I was pretty much the sole caretaker of a 9 year old, a 7 year old and a preemie I was overly cautious of ANY germs coming in the house. It was well with in my right to be so, but needless to say I was met with dirty looks and snarky remarks when I politely asked that people “look and not touch” my precious cargo. It came to the point when I went out I used my breastfeeding cover over the top of her carrier to fend people off. It was stressful….I had to buy my family food! I had no choice but to go out and had to plan invasive maneuvers just to keep my kids safe. I never left home with out my cover, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer & hand wipes! This was a feat considering I was very unhealthy at the time.
I wish when I was going through all that it was more well known how dangerous RSV can be to small children. This will always be a cause that will always be near and dear to my heart. Mothers need support and compassion. Please be respectful of a mothers right to keep her child healthy.
Here a few steps you can take to help keep babies healthy:
- Have family members and caregivers wash their hands with warm water and soap before touching the baby
- Avoid being around the baby if you have a cold or fever
- Avoid exposing the baby to other children with cold symptoms
- Keep the baby away from crowded places
- Never smoke around the baby
- Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about RSV risks and prevention
Use baby etiquette, here’s some tips:
Life as a new parent is joyous and celebratory. In most cases, parents cannot wait to introduce the new baby to friends and family. But sometimes exposure to loved ones also means exposure to germs. Young infants are very susceptible to infection in the early weeks of their lives, so contracting something as small as the common cold can present danger. This is especially true for babies born early, because they have underdeveloped lungs and immature immune systems.
One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This virus is of special concern because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Because of this, almost 100% of children contract RSV by their second birthday. In most older children, RSV runs its course with mild symptoms similar to the cold or flu, and many parents may not even know their child has the virus. But in very young babies—and especially preemies and those with certain lung and heart diseases—it can lead to a serious respiratory infection.
Because of these dangers, parents of new babies need to be cautious about exposing infants to visitors. But communicating your concern to family and friends eager to meet your new child is difficult. It is a struggle to be appreciative of people’s excitement and wary of their contact.
As a guest, it is your responsibility to know how to act and prepare for a visit. It is important to remember that babies are susceptible to germs, so physical contact can be risky. Always wash your hands, ask before you touch a baby, and stay away if you have been sick recently.
And if the new parents aren’t ready for visitors, remember that their concerns are valid and don’t be offended. There are other ways to show support of families with newborns (e.g., laundry duty or bringing dinner), while respecting the parents’ efforts to keep their baby safe from germs during their first few vulnerable months.
A few tips to remember when a loved one has a new baby:
- Call before you visit. New parents need time to set up a routine and bond. By giving them time to do so before you visit, you are respecting the new family.
- Postpone a visit if you feel that you may be getting sick, have recently been ill or exposed to illness.
- Remember that parents know best. If you feel they are being overprotective or overly cautious, just consider that only they know what’s best for the health of their new son or daughter.
- Offer to do something to ease their responsibilities as they spend time as a family, such as laundry, cooking or dishes. Sleep-deprived moms and dads will appreciate your help!
If you do schedule a visit with a new baby:
- Wash your hands frequently—upon entering the home and especially prior to holding the baby. Parents, and the new baby, will appreciate it.
- Leave toddlers at home, especially during the winter months. Young children, especially if they attend day care or preschool, often carry germs and viruses, like RSV, that are easily spread.
A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:
- Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
- Serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 infant deaths each year.
- RSV occurs in epidemics each fall through spring. The CDC has defined “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
- There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
Certain babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.
If you child does contract RSV they are contagious for up to 3 weeks. Avoid contact with other small children as much as possible.
To learn more about RSV, visit www.rsvprotection.com.
If you need a little help opening up the communication between yourself and loved ones/friends like I did, here’s a suggestion in the form of an open letter (wish I would have had this!):
An Open Letter to Loved Ones
All newborns are vulnerable during the first few months of life, but certain babies—especially those born prematurely or with certain chronic conditions that make them especially susceptible to infection—need extra protection while their immune systems develop. As the parent of a high-risk infant, sometimes it’s hard to explain to friends and family why you take certain precautions. Parents of healthy, full-term babies may not understand and some may perceive your actions to be “extreme” or “paranoid.” But you know how important it is to prevent your baby from getting sick.
If you haven’t quite found the words to explain why you wish to take extra precautionary measures to keep your baby healthy, the below open letter may be a helpful tool in explaining your situation. Or, if you know of someone who recently had a high-risk baby and is having difficulty finding acceptance and understanding, share this with them and let them know they aren’t alone.
Dear [Loved One],
I know sometimes people think I go to extreme lengths to protect [Baby], and I understand my methods may seem strange. I wanted to send this note to you to give you insight on what life is like when you’re perceived as an “overprotective” parent.
[Baby] was born [prematurely or with X condition], which puts [him/her] at an increased risk of developing a serious infection from many common, seemingly harmless, germs and viruses. For example, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an extremely common virus that all babies contract by their second birthday. Most infants have the immune system and lung strength to fight off the virus, but in high-risk babies, it can cause a very serious infection. In fact, serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization. Note: For more information on the dangers of RSV, you can check out www.RSVprotection.com.
Because [Baby] is so vulnerable to RSV and other illnesses, it’s important to us to avoid exposing [him/her] to these germs. Viruses like RSV are highly contagious and can live for hours on objects like countertops, doorknobs and toys. Frankly, the idea that visitors may unknowingly bring in these dangerous germs is very scary to a new parent!
So I’m asking that you please be patient with me and my precautions to keep [Baby] safe. Please contact me before dropping by for a visit, and know that while I hate turning you away or asking you not to come over, it’s always for a good reason and never personal.
And when we’re eventually ready for visitors, please remember that prevention is key to keeping [Baby] safe.
Please refrain from visiting when you are sick or if you’ve been around someone ill.
Please make sure your clothes are clean and you haven’t smoked or been around smokers recently. Smoke can be very dangerous for underdeveloped lungs.
Let’s wait until [Baby] is strong enough to be introduced to your little one(s), You know I love seeing [him/her], but toddlers and school-aged children are very likely carriers of germs and viruses.
Wash your hands immediately when you come into the house, or sanitize during your visit – this is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Wash, wash, wash!
I hope this helps to explain a bit better why I’ve been keeping [Baby] in and, often, visitors out. I appreciate your understanding and look forward to seeing [Baby] grow stronger and healthier everyday with your help!
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.