Preemie Awareness Day and RSV

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Did you know that today is World Prematurity Day? When I was pregnant with my first baby (Emma, pictured above), I remember feeling relieved to pass the 21-week mark, when I knew she would have a chance at survival. Then I met a friend whose baby was born at 32 weeks, and realized how much of an uphill battle her baby had. 21 weeks was suddenly not a very reassuring marker. In fact, any baby born at or before 37 weeks is considered premature, because at this point their immune systems and lungs are not fully developed, making them more likely to develop infections and experience respiratory problems.

Thankfully, all four of my children were born full-term, and they have had mostly-healthy infancies. I’m very aware of how at-risk babies are, both from my educational background and from witnessing scary illnesses in friends’ children. Which is why I decided to dedicate a post to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of infant hospitalization. RSV is a very common virus that looks like a common cold for most people, but it sends the babies of 79 percent of preemie moms to the hospital. November through March is prime “RSV season” according to the CDC, and it can affect full-term babies as well. Last year, a friend’s full-term baby was hospitalized for two weeks with this disease. Thankfully she made a full recovery, and is back to her normal, very cheerful, self, but those were some frightening days.

Medimmune sent me this helpful graphic to share the basic facts on RSV:RSV Infographic

 

RSV is highly contagious, but there is a lot you can do to prevent it. Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently, wash your own hands frequently and make sure others do the same (I have my kids use hand sanitizer as they climb in the van after school), avoid large crowds and anyone who is or has been sick, and never let anyone smoke near your baby. If your baby is at high risk for RSV (low birth weight, some lung or heart disease, family history of asthma, and frequently contact with other children are some risk factors), preventive therapy may be available.

Most importantly, contact your baby’s pediatrician if they start coughing severely, wheezing, taking rapid gasping breaths, if their lips, mouth, or the area under their fingernails turns blue, or if they have a high fever or extreme fatigue.

You can learn more about RSV by visiting www.rsvprotection.com, and further information about the specialized health needs of preterm babies is available at www.preemievoices.com.

Do you have a personal experience with prematurity or RSV? Are you taking extra precautions as we head into prime RSV season?

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Comments

  1. says

    My nephew Matthew was born at 34 1/2 weeks. He was a good weight: 6 pounds, 6 ounces, but he had so much trouble eating. He got really jaundice and had to go back to the hospital at 2 days old. He got RSV there. Poor guy. It was so sad. It’s really a very scary disease.

  2. says

    My boys were premature. Interestingly enough 38 weeks is considered full term for twins, and with each successive baby added they take off a week for it to be considered full term bottoming out at 35 or 36 (I don’t remember for sure which). So technically my boys were only 2 weeks early (or was it 3, I just got home from a camping trip and I’m A LOT short on sleep).

    Another interesting fact, if your body is under enough stress from the pregnancy it starts to accelerate development of the baby if it can, so my boys lungs were fully mature early. You know I think it was 35 weeks and a few days. But, all the stress my body was under from the preeclampsia and pre-mature labor forced them to accelerate growth.
    And, now I return to my sleep deprived haze because obviously I need sleep.

    • says

      That is fascinating that your stress triggered their bodies to accelerate development. I’m so glad your boys’ lungs were fully mature, even though they were early.

  3. says

    This is really helpful Maryanne, especially with my twin pregnancy, as they can very well be born prematurely. I’m going to think positive thoughts and hope we make it all the way to 38 weeks!

  4. says

    This is a great info post Mary Anne! One thing a mom shouldn’t feel embarrassed or bad about is asking other’s, including medical staff, to wash their hands before holding or touching a newborn. All my kids were full term (and trust me, it wasn’t a pretty site with the twins), but I still worried about RSV.

  5. says

    My kids never had RSV but it can definitely be scary. Some friends of ours just had a baby prematurely. He’s doing well but it’s been pretty hard for them. He’s still in the hospital but he’s a fighter!

  6. says

    This is a wonderful post. My daughter was 7 weeks premature and weighed 3 lb 6 oz. She was in NICU for one month to gain one pound! But the staff was fantastic. It is very scary thought to have a baby born so early. My great niece was just 2 pounds and is now very healthy (6 years old). I didn’t realize there was a World Preemie Awareness Day. Thanks for the post.

  7. Jen says

    What a great post! My 3rd daughter was full term but came down with RSV at a month old. She ended up spending 5 days in the PICU. It was a heart breaking week and scary week for my family.
    Even now (at the age of almost 3) she’s still prone to having common colds turn into respiratory illness for her. Thank you for sharing this information.

    • says

      I’m sorry your daughter is still having complications from this. RSV is on my mind this week, because my four-month-old nephew just got it. Such a tough disease for little ones.

  8. Breanna says

    My oldest daughter was born at 32 weeks via c section due to my severe preeclampsia. She was a mere 2 lbs 6 oz and spent the first two months of her life in the NICU. We were very lucky, other than her tiny size she was pretty healthy and only needed room air to help her breath, and was fed by a feeding tube until she learned how to suck and swallow. She is now 8, very smart and you never know she had such a rough start. My youngest daughter, 21 months now, has had a very rough year. She had gotten sick with a high fever and bad cough. I had taken her to the ER and literally a minute after I checked her in, she had a febrile seizure. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever dealt with. They rushed her back and laid her on the table, as she convulsed, her eyes stared blankly at the roof filled with tears,she was moaning. Of course I was balling my eyes out. It was only a couple of minutes, but it seemed like forever. Testing concluded that she had pneumonia, they sent her home with antibiotics. A month later she became ill again,same symptoms. I took her in again, turns out that both her and my son (2 1/2 at the time) had contracted RSV. It took them a little over a month with antibiotics, fever reducers, and breathing treatments every three hours before they got better. RSV is one of the worse illnessesfor any child to have. My oldest daughter being a preemie was given a RSV preventative shot until she was three. They should make it available for all children. I hope we never have to go through that again.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!