See that adorable, beautiful little face? That's Elias. Elias is the son of Amanda, the blogger behind Our Crazy House. Elias was an ordinary little boy who was looking forward to turning 4. He loved playing with his trains, had an infectious smile, and brightened the day of everyone who met him. He had a doting big sister and was also a proud big brother to a couple of sweet little boys.
Two weeks ago, Elias, also affectionately known as "Bow", died in his sleep. He was seemingly healthy and had no signs of anything being wrong. While his parents should have been planning his 4th birthday celebration, they had to plan his funeral, instead. This has been a shock to their family, and a shock to the blogging world as well. I remember when I first heard about the loss of Bow on the day he passed, I cried my heart out. It's just not fair, you know? No one should ever have to bury a child. Especially when nothing seemed out of the ordinary to begin with.
When Bow's cause of death was determined, they found that RSV was the culprit.
What is RSV, and what can you do to protect your children?
One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This virus is of special concern because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, toys, 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, and sadly, even death.
I know I was one of those "paranoid moms" when our daughter, Sophie was born. And then again 12 months later when we welcomed our little Xander to the world. I wanted to protect them from everything! After all, it took years of suffering through infertility issues as well as 4 traumatizing miscarriages before we were able to finally be blessed with our babies. So after their births, I was almost obsessive about making sure they were protected from germs, warm enough, etc. I must have looked like a lunatic running around disheveled and sleep deprived with a can of Lysol, a bottle of GermX, and screaming at everyone to wash their hands constantly.
It seems that my paranoia wasn't without warrant, and thankfully, my kids have never been truly sick. (Knock on wood.) For this, I am incredibly grateful!
For Family and Friends:
If you are a guest visiting 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.
And 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 (e.g., laundry duty or bringing dinner), while respecting the parents’ efforts to keep their baby safe from germs during their first few vulnerable months.
A few tips to remember when a loved one has a new baby:
• 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.
A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:
• Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
• Serious RSV infection 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.
• There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
• Certain babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
• Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.
For New Parents:
If you're a new parent and are uncomfortable discussing your concerns about RSV with loved ones, here is a great open letter that you can customize to suit your needs. By sending this letter, you're not only giving your family and friends valuable information, you could also potentially be saving your child's life.
An Open Letter to Loved Ones
All newborns are vulnerable during the first few months of life, but certain babies—especially those born prematurely or with certain chronic conditions that make them especially susceptible to infection—need extra protection while their immune systems develop. As the parent of a high-risk infant, sometimes it’s hard to explain to friends and family why you take certain precautions. Parents of healthy, full-term babies may not understand and some may perceive your actions to be “extreme” or “paranoid.” But you know how important it is to prevent your baby from getting sick.
If you haven’t quite found the words to explain why you wish to take extra precautionary measures to keep your baby healthy, the below open letter may be a helpful tool in explaining your situation. Or, if you know of someone who recently had a high-risk baby and is having difficulty finding acceptance and understanding, share this with them and let them know they aren’t alone.
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 www.RSVprotection.com.
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!
Please share this post with anyone you know who has a baby or small child in their lives Information is key, and common sense preventative measures can make such a big impact in protecting little ones from the dangers of RSV.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
To learn more about RSV, visit www.rsvprotection.com
A special thank you to Amanda at Our Crazy House for allowing me to share Bow's story. To learn more about Elias and what a special child he was, please visit Amanda and family at Our Crazy House.
***Disclosure: 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.***