Thursday, November 10, 2011

RSV and Preemies

I want to talk about RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and Preemies.  Yes, all babies can contract RSV but in most full term babies it only produces cold like symptoms but in preemies it can be much much worse, requiring medical attention and sometimes even hospitalization.  Many parents of preterm babies are not ready for or even aware of any special medical care the newborn might need.  According to a March of Dimes survey, this is because most expecting parents don’t discuss preterm birth with their doctor during prenatal care, even if they are at high risk.  And most Birth Centers don't either.  They just cover baby care of full term healthy babies.  So for that reason I am going to step outside my comfort zone and share my preemie RSV story with you.  It all turns out okay in the end so please bear that in mind while reading my son's story.

The reason getting RSV and preemie knowledge is important to me is because I had to go thru this with my son.  And if I can help one parent from experiencing it, I want to.  My son contracted RSV either in the hospital right after birth (he was born at 36.5 weeks gestation) or leaving the hospital.  I came to this conclusion because we didn't go anywhere but hospital to home until we had to the doctor and get him admitted into the hospital.  I had a cold when I delivered him, tho the doctors said it was tail end of the cold and I was not contagious I'm not so sure it didn't come from that.  So with my son 5 days old I am rushing him to the hospital. I knew something was wrong from day one.  He didn't sound right to me yet the doctors kept reassuring me everything was fine.  He wasn't eating the way his older sisters had and he spent little time awake.  I was worried so I held my baby for 5 days almost non stop.  I took him back to the doctors for the second time in 5 days (so he saw doctors everyday but 1 day for the first 2 weeks of his life) and when we got there the doctor noticed he was pale in color and looked under his shirt and commented that his nipples were blueish in color and listened to him and then told us to go straight to the PED floor at the hospital.  His pulse ox upon arrival was 58% and they said he had a mucus plug.  They dislogged it and for the first time I heard my baby boy really cry..I started crying (as I am now as I write this) and the nurses assured me he was fine.  I replied with I know he will be because I can hear him cry.  They ran tests and confirmed he had a severe case of RSV.  They ran an IV tube and ran fluids and antibiotics thru him.  He was hooked up to an IV in his arm (if the arm didn't take they were going to have to put one in his head like with most preemies) and a blood pressure cuff on his calf and a pulse ox on his toe and an oxygen tube in his nose and taped to his face (if that didn't work then he would have been placed in an oxygen tent.  And there I sat feeling completely helpless with my little man having to fight for his life because of RSV.  They had a respiratory specialist come in a lot  to give him breathing treatments and to "thump" his back.  The thump was just a little cup like tool that use to tap over his lungs to break up any congestion he had. After a few days on the antibiotics they started to wean him down on the oxygen and I could hold and not just touch my baby boy. After the infection was cleared of his body and the oxygen was removed and he was able to breath at least 97% on his own we were instructed on how to use a nebulizer and sent home.  He began eating better and putting back on the weight he lost.  The doctor said they may have been some brain damage from being oxygen deprived and that he was not sure if he would ever not need breathing treatments.  The good news is that he is 4 now and its been a very long time since we had to use the nebulizer (tho we still have it and emergency meds on hand, because RSV can lead to chronic broncholitis as it had with him) and he is hitting most milestones on time.  We were lucky and he is a lucky little guy.  Before that happened I was dumb to RSV and what it was or how to prevent it which was sad because he was my second premature birth.
So if I can educate just one person with this post and they can avoid that, then me telling my story was well worth it.

RSV Quick Facts:
  • RSV 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.
  • Certain regions have longer RSV seasons than others, with the season beginning as early as July (e.g., Florida) or ending in April.
  • Despite its prevalence, one-third of mothers have never heard of RSV.
November 17th is also World Prematurity Day , so let's get educated.

Prevention is Key:
There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
  • Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
  • Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid large crowds and people who may be sick
  • Never let anyone smoke near your baby
  • Speak with your child’s doctor if you believe he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available

Be Aware of Symptoms:
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
  • Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
  • High fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty feeding
And please even if you suspect there is something wrong with your newborn don't hesitate to take him/her to the doctor.  That is what they are there for.  I went and the doctor assured me nothing was wrong but that is only because he had no symptoms yet and they thought the breathing was just how he breathed because he was like that at birth.  And my son never coughed or wheezed or had a fever at all.  So all the above symptoms may not show up.

If you want to learn more about RSV, visit And for more information on the specialized health needs of preterm infants, visit

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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