My youngest daughter was born just over a month prematurely. Her birth was nothing if not eventful- she was a double footling breach baby, and between my arrival at the hospital and her birth, I think maybe 30 minutes passed? I can’t say for sure because I was under general anesthesia at the time. She was healthy. I was, too, within a few days. But her having been a preemie, especially given that she was born just 13 days after my mom died, really made us cautious about who came in contact with her, handwashing, and where we brought her that first fall and winter. She made it through her first two winters without much more than recurring ear infections.
My son had a very mild case of RSV before he was 4 months old. We were very fortunate that it wasn’t a severe case, but it still was a bit frightening for us. It only reinforced what we knew to be true, and that we really needed to be proactive and protect him in whatever ways we could. There are many things we can do as parents and caregivers.
We have been beyond fortunate that our children haven’t gotten sick with RSV – at least not a serious case. I’m glad we’ve taken the time to educate ourselves and stand behind what we know to be best for our children. It’s not always easy, at least not at first.
One thing that has caused friction within our extended families and with so many people we know is, in a word, SMOKING. Listen, I’ve tried it, I won’t lie. But it’s bad. There’s nothing positive I can say about smoking. When it comes to those most vulnerable to RSV, if you are a smoker, that smoke stays in your hair, in your clothing, under your nails, on your skin…which means when you hold that baby, that toddler, you are exposing them to smoke. Harsh? Maybe. True? Absolutely. People may poo-poo the idea that they need to at least change their shirt and wash hands before holding your baby, but you are doing what you can to protect your child in asking them to take these simple measures.
My mom was a smoker. She smoked until the day she died. She died because of it, in fact. Even she had to wash her hands before touching the babies. My mother in law was a heavy smoker until a few years ago. I made her wash hands before holding my kids, too. I think a lot of people from their generation just don’t have the information we do as parents in 2012 and its kind of a foreign idea to them. I don’t think I even rode in a car seat home from the hospital as a newborn. We know more now. But it is our job as parents to educate!!
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.
To learn more about RSV, visit www.rsvprotection.com..
An open letter to help you to respectfully discuss baby etiquette with others- please feel free to use as is , or as a guideline. Don’t feel “funny” about asking people to do these things- perhaps they just don’t know what the risks are. We have to assume, when it comes to our children, that people maybe don’t know, and be proactive in educating them.
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!
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