I knew that a common virus could potentially have serious effects on a newborn, and since Rylie was born smack dab in the middle of flu season in January, I simply didn't take her out of the house. My co-workers kept asking me when I was going to bring her in to the office so everyone could see her, and my answer was always "when she is older". My maternity leave proved to be a very long two months cooped up in the house, but my baby didn't get sick, and that is all that mattered to me.
I guess because Rylie was born full-term with no complications, I was never warned about RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). In fact, I didn't even know it existed. That was until one of the babies in her daycare had it. This baby had been a full-term, healthy baby, and still contracted the potentially deadly virus. The baby recovered pretty quickly from her RSV infection, like most full-term babies would, but of course I did some research on the virus and found out just how dangerous it is, especially for babies born premature.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common, easily spread virus that almost all children catch at least once by the time they turn 2. RSV disease usually causes moderate-to-severe cold symptoms. However, for some babies, complications from RSV disease can lead to a serious lung infection.
When Bryce was born, we weren't as scared. After all, we knew what we were doing. Since I was flat on my back after my c-section, Brian changed Bryce's diapers like a champ. We knew how to feed him, bathe him and comfort him, and we even took him out of the house. We had a toddler, after all, and couldn't keep her cooped up, and since I had suffered from a slight case of PPD after Rylie was born, I knew it would be good for me to get out of the house. We were very careful when we took him out in public and shielded him from all of the germy hands that would reach out to touch him. Our biggest concern was that Rylie would bring germs home from the
Here are 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.
Neither of my children contracted RSV that we know of, and if they did, the symptoms were very mild. Not all babies are as lucky, though. It is our job as parents to protect our children, and even though our friends and family are excited to see our new bundles of joy, there is nothing wrong with telling them that they will have to wait. This goes for all babies, but especially for babies born premature or with other health conditions. If you aren't comfortable telling your friends and family that you would rather them not come by and visit your new baby, here is a great example of a letter that you can send out when you come home from the hospital:
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!
If you know someone who has recently had a new baby, and they are not ready for visitors yet, please 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.
To learn more about RSV so that you can keep your baby safe, visit MedImmune's RSV Protection website.
Disclosure: All opinions are my own. 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.