Cold/Flu and RSV season is rapidly approaching. For a preemie and their family this time of year can be stressful and fearful. RSV is a huge deal for a preemie, because of their fragile immune system and their premature lungs that are still developing they are not as well equiped to handle this virus. A common cold for me or you can cause actually be RSV and the symptoms can be so much more severe for a preemie.
According to the CDC, "When infants and children are exposed to RSV for the first time, 25% to 40% of them have signs or symptoms of bronchiolitis or pneumonia, and 0.5% to 2% will require hospitalization. Most children hospitalized for RSV infection are under 6 months of age." (Source: www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/infection.html ) These numbers are likely even higher in high risk groups like preemies.
If you are preemie parent and this is your first RSV Season, precautions should be discussed in detail with your child's Peditrician and the NICU follow-up team (if you are a part of that at your NICU). Be prepared for some of the worst cabin fever you can imagine. These next few months could arguably be as stressful and nerve racking as that time spent in the NICU.
And if you are the family member of a preemie, please respect whatever precautions the parents are following. I cannot stress this enough. It's going to be tough on the parents, please don't try and make them feel guilty about protecting their preemie. Preemie's are different, exposing them to germs is not the way to build their immune system at such a young age. Their medical team will advise on the best situation to keep the baby healthy.
In our case last year the babies were home from the NICU for just a few short months before RSV season hit and we were advised by the NICU Clinic and our Peditrician to avoid crowded places, public or otherwise, stay away from anyone who was sick/had been sick or around someone who was sick within the last 5 days. We were told that we could go for walks outside but to keep the babies well covered and restrict contact from strangers or anyone who hadn't washed their hands or sanitized. They also got Synagis vaccines once a month for several months (Synagis is an RSV vaccine for very high risk infants/toddlers). I am sure a lot of people thought we were nuts but after seeing all they had went thru in the NICU I would have done it a million times more if it meant keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.
We asked their grandparents and anyone else who would be in close contact with the babies through their first winter to get a Flu shot and their Pertussis (Whooping Cough) vaccine, we made sure we were vaccinated too! No vaccine = no getting close to the babies (yes we were that serious). Their grandparents were amazing and made sure they were protected too. I cannot stress enough the importance of their support in all of this.
We limited visitors throughout the winter and avoided school aged children as well. Holidays were a quiet and small affair that was limited to Grandparents and their Aunt and Uncle A & R only. We even missed church services on Christmas Eve.
Oh did I have days where I thought I would go insane and looked for any reason to go the store or get out of the house when Jake came home from work. I think I actually resented him just a little tiny bit because he got to get out of the house every single day. I read books on Kindle during naps, tried to catch up on all my favorite tv shows, I am sure the house was cleaner then it had ever been, laundry never fell behind, but still sometime around December I was still bored out of my mind and going crazy. We moved the beginning of December and I am pretty sure I hold the record for unpacking and decorating... after all, all I had was time on my hands.
For their 1st Birthday, we branched out just a little bit and had a few people over to celebrate, it was nice. But it was so hard not to invite anyone and everyone espeically after all the support we had while they were in the NICU, etc. Typically RSV season runs November to Mid April/May here. We had to be extra viligent with Addison those last few months because she was having surgery for her Cleft Palate repair and she had to be healthy with no cold symptoms, etc for a few weeks prior, plus a cold that spread into more could damage her lungs and make being intubated/extubated challanging. As the weather got nicer we would take small, quick trips to Target or the grocery store, but I always tried to plan this for times when it wouldn't be crowded and often I took my own grandmother with me because she was the baby Nazi and NOBODY was touching her great grandbabies, she made sure of that. But it wasn't until the end of May before we finally felt "safe" enough to break free and start getting out, going to the park and hanging out with our friends.
Even taking these precautions the babies still got a handful of colds but they were short lived and thankfully never caused any major issues. But it goes to show how weak their immune system is. Just things like Jake carrying home germs from work or the few visitors, or heck even sitting in the Peditrician's office. They likely will still get sick but the hope is that with the right precautions we can limit the severity.
This year we won't be on such a strick lockdown. Our Peditrician said his reccomendations are for the twins to get their flu shot and try to avoid contact with anyone who is sick, try not to worry too much about public places. Basically we'll behave just like we have this summer with few exceptions. Some preemie's need more time or have other issues that warrant taking another RSV season lockdown, so again talk to you Peditrician.
For more information about RSV visit the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/rsv
For more informaiton about Pertussis visit the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/pertussis