RSV- 3 letters that can strike fear in the hearts of NICU nurses and parents everywhere.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that generally causes mild, cold-like symptoms in healthy adults and children, but it can be deadly for infants, especially preemies.
Premature babies (those born before 35 weeks gestation) are born before their lungs and respiratory systems fully develop, leaving them particularly at risk for developing severe complications from RSV.
With RSV season right around the corner, it’s important to think about precautions you can take to protect your baby from RSV. Infections usually begin appearing anywhere from mid-September to mid-November, so now is the time to begin putting your RSV safeguards in place. NICU parents may be wondering: how do I protect my baby from RSV?
Here’s what you can do to keep your baby safe:
Limit Visitors and Outings
I know, I know- staying home gets BORING, especially if you can’t even invite friends and family over. But limiting contact with the outside world is the best way to keep RSV germs at bay.
Take inspiration from our pandemic precautions and plan plenty of FaceTime calls with friends and family, and maybe even a Zoom party! Everyone can watch your baby grow, and you can get some much-needed social time from the safety of your home.
Wash Your Hands
This is great advice all year round! Germs don’t just come out to play in the winter, and hand washing is your best line of defense against illness.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds multiple times a day and insist that anyone who is in close contact with your preemie do the same!
Cover Your Cough
Can we just make this a general rule for everyone???
Coughing and sneezing spreads respiratory viruses, and the only way to keep from spraying germs across everyone in your path is to cover your nose AND your mouth with a tissue, or even your sleeve, EVERY time you cough or sneeze.
Avoid Contact with Sick People
Staying home all winter is rarely an option for most people. You have to go to work, to your older child’s school, or just to the grocery store!
Masks can help (and you probably have some laying around- thanks, Covid!), but keeping your distance from anyone who is, or has recently been sick is still your best bet. If you run into an old friend in the produce aisle, smile and wave, but save the hugs for after RSV season, NICU moms and dads!
Keep It Clean
Objects and surfaces that get touched a LOT need frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Clean doorknobs, light switches, cabinet pulls, toys and favorite books regularly to keep your home as germ-free as possible.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
If your preemie is less than 6 months old at the beginning of RSV season, they may be eligible for Synagis- a highly effective RSV vaccine. It’s often up to your insurance provider whether or not your baby will qualify, but your pediatrician can help determine if your child is a good candidate for the Synagis vaccine.RSV season is scary but taking the steps to protect your family and your preemie helps reduce your worry! If you’d like to learn more about keeping your baby safe during respiratory virus season, check out https://handtohold.org/protecting-preemie-rsv/!