I had no idea what RSV was. I am not a medical professional. I am an average mom with three kids.
Like most kids, mine get the sniffles and sneezes during cold and flu season. They are up to date on their vaccinations, and interact with other children on a semi-regular basis at playdates, playgrounds, and the grocery store. I’ve never kept my children in a bubble.
We had our third child in November. Adam was healthy and weighed a whopping nine pounds, eight ounces. Right before Thanksgiving, my older son started to show signs of a nasty cough. He never ran a fever, and after about a week, the virus had run its course. As in most families with multiple children, the virus was passed down to my 2-year-old daughter.
It hit her much harder. She ran a high-grade fever for four days and nights. The nasty cough caused her to vomit. She wasn’t eating and felt extremely lethargic. Finally, the doctor prescribed an antibiotic for my daughter’s ear infection, and she started to show signs of life again. These two illnesses brought us to the pediatrician seven times in two weeks.
Nevertheless, I was extremely naive when it came to my newborn. I thought since I was breastfeeding, he would have extra immunities against the nasty virus my older kids were passing back and forth. I didn’t think twice and I regret it.
On a visit to my parents’ house one Saturday evening, my dad was holding Adam when he called me into the living room. “Adam is really sick,” he said. I kind of laughed it off, in a complete sleep-deprived stupor. I didn’t want to believe him because I didn’t think I could handle one more sick child.
That evening, Adam took a turn for the worse. He was coughing phlegm. The next few days were kind of a blur. I took him back to the pediatrician twice. The second time, they swabbed his nose, and he tested positive for RSV and bronchiolitis.
“What is RSV?” I asked a tech. She couldn’t tell me, and just said to watch him closely. I should have pressed the pediatrician’s office more, but I felt kind of dumb. This was my ninth visit in two weeks. So I left.
That Wednesday night, Adam started running a low-grade fever. What I didn’t know was that even a low grade fever is dangerous for a newborn. Naive, like I said. He vomited after every feeding. The next morning, he’d gone a full 12 hours without a wet diaper, so I called the pediatrician’s office again. Instead of setting up a 10th appointment, they told me to take him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital immediately.
Adam spent four days and three nights hooked up to oxygen, IVs, fluids, and antibiotics. He had multiple tests, chest X-rays, breathing treatments, nose aspirations. His care and treatment at Nationwide Children’s was first class. I can’t rave enough about the hospital and staff. But I never want to go back there again.
In the past few days, I’ve seen multiple articles about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) pop up on my news feed. I’m sharing our story because I want other parents to know what I didn’t know.
1. Watch their breathing
Take your child’s shirt off and see if you can see his rib cage as he tries to breathe. There’s a tiny V shape under your child’s neck. If that V is exposed when he inhales, he’s working too hard to breathe. Lastly, does his head bob when he breathes? Another sign he’s working too hard.
Adam was doing all three of these things for a few days, but I didn’t know what to look for.
2. RSV peaks on days three through five
Unfortunately, the virus gets worse before it gets better. I didn’t take Adam in to Children’s until day five.
3. RSV is common
Like, super common. The average adult will get RSV multiple times in her lifetime. It’s a common cold with a cough, with varying degrees of intensity. For Luke, it was just a cough. For Eden, it was a fever, a cough, and vomiting. For Adam, it was four days in the hospital.
4. An RSV cough lasts four to six weeks
My kids are FINALLY free of that nasty cough, but my husband and my mom are still coughing. This virus affected our entire family before Thanksgiving. It’s now mid-January.
For medical professionals to consider it “RSV Season,” 5% of patients must test positive for RSV. So far this winter, 49% of patients tested positive. I’m not sure if medical professionals or the CDC will call that an epidemic, but they should.
5. Hand washing is great, but isolation is best
If you have kids and plan to come in contact with a newborn…just stay away. Children are carriers of the virus, and while it may be a slight cough for a 5-year-old, it could be much worst for an infant.
6. Rain brings RSV
While there’s no scientific evidence to support this, researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital tell me that when the weather warms up and rain sweeps through, RSV is on the rise.
I’ve cancelled play dates and found a babysitter if anyone shows a sign of a sniffle. Our family cancelled two vacations because of this virus. People may think I’m going overboard, but better smart than sorry.
Since our run with RSV, Adam is now part of a case study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Medical researchers are working on a vaccine for the virus. One currently exists for preemies, but this vaccine would be readily available to all newborns. So on some level, Adam is helping to protect future babies from RSV. I hope our story sheds some light on a virus I previously knew nothing about.
**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Just a mom who wanted to share her story.**