I have heard about RSV all my adult life–but I never fully realized what it is or how severe it can be until last month when my grandson, Owen, was in the hospital fighting for his life. While he is a four year old, his immune system had been compromised by surgery to remove his tonsils. The doctor said he was probably exposed to the germs before his surgery, but had displayed no symptoms until the night after the procedure. His diagnosis was Human Metapneumovirus, which is related to RSV. I can not imagine going through this same ordeal with a newborn or tiny baby.
Normally, young babies are the ones affected by RSV. One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus. This virus is of special concern because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, toys, and bedding for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Because of this, almost 100% of children contract RSV by their second birthday. In most older children, RSV runs its course with mild symptoms similar to the cold or flu, and many parents may not even know their child has the virus. But in very young babies—and especially preemies and those with certain lung and heart diseases—it can lead to a serious respiratory infection.
Because of these dangers, parents of new babies need to be cautious about exposing infants to visitors. But communicating your concern to family and friends eager to meet your new child can be difficult. It is a struggle to be appreciative of people’s excitement and wary of their contact.
So, if you are going to visit a family with a new baby, it is your responsibility to know how to act and prepare for a visit. It is important to remember that babies are susceptible to germs, so physical contact can be risky. Always wash your hands, ask before you touch a baby, and stay away if you have been sick recently.
If the new parents aren’t ready for visitors, remember that their concerns are valid and don’t be offended. There are other ways to show support of families with newborns such as doing the laundry for them, making dinner, or babysitting older siblings. Respecting the parents’ efforts to keep their baby safe from germs during their first few vulnerable months is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Some tips to remember:
- 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.
Find out more about RSV and how to prevent it at RSV Protection.
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.