Monday, March 19, 2012

Keep your baby safe from RSV!

As I've written before, respiratory synctitial virus (RSV) is a highly personal subject for me. Chris contracted RSV when he was nearly 15 months old (actual) and was hospitalized for a week, in isolation, with pneumonia. We knew some people in the NICU who took home a healthy, comparatively huge 34-weeker who returned to the hospital sick with RSV, had to be put on the heart-lung machine, and actually died. He went home in the height of cold and flu season. Although RSV is extremely dangerous and even deadly for preemies, all babies are at risk.

It's especially awkward for new parents to ask their friends and family to wash their hands before entering their home, avoid going near the baby when sick, and keep sick children away. MedImmune has some excellent resources on its RSV Protection web site, including a map that shows when RSV season hits each state. I especially like the "Open Letter to Loved Ones" (below), which parents of any new baby can adapt and send to their friends and family in advance of any visits.

I remember the attitudes of some people who seemed to think that we were being overzealous, but better to be overzealous and keep your baby safe and healthy. People would make completely ignorant comments about how children need to get germs so they can "get used to them." We made people wash their hands as soon as they walked in the door, and we wouldn't allow anyone to visit if he or she were sick. In our case, since Chris was so tiny and fragile, we actually didn't take him out in public until he'd been home for 6 months...Mother's Day was his first visit to church (after RSV season was over). Our pediatrician's office allowed us to come in through the back door and ushered us immediately into an exam room. Chris was on breast milk for over a year. We took every precaution we could to protect him.

Open Letter to Loved Ones

If you are a new or expecting parent, I encourage you to consider using some form of this letter--in particular if your baby is a preemie, but even if he or she is not.
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

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.

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