If the boogeyman had a name, his initials would be R.S.V.
Every time I hear those letters, my heart beats a little faster and a tingling sensation rushes through my veins.
Five years ago, I’d never heard of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). I only learned about it when my identical twins, who had just gotten out of the NICU, started showing symptoms.
The virus is actually very common. We’ve most likely all had it at one point or another.
For most people, RSV presents as a cold with no need for medical attention. But for premature babies, infants, and babies with other health issues, RSV can be fatal.
That may sound dramatic, but I have first-hand knowledge of just how dangerous this virus can be.
D, my tiniest twin, graduated from the NICU on Halloween 2013, right before his due date. On January 2nd 2014, he started breathing fast, so we took him to the hospital. He spent the next 4 weeks in the PICU battling RSV.
During that month, my 6 pound baby stopped breathing, had to be resuscitated, suffered a collapsed lung, and needed a blood transfusion. And those are just a few of the traumatic events he endured.
On more than a few occasions, the doctors told me, “We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Thankfully, with the help of the doctors, nurses, and prayers sent by so many loved ones, they both made a full recovery.
But when D came home, he was much smaller than his twin brother, J. And he remains smaller to this day.
In an effort to help other new parents, I want to share some of the knowledge I gained while my babies were sick.
Here is what I want every new parent to know:
1. Take it seriously!
It seemed like D had just left the NICU when he started getting sick again. I didn’t want to be that mom – the one who over reacts to every-little-thing wrong with her baby.
So I started second guessing myself. I thought I could handle it myself.
But remember this: If your baby is having trouble breathing, that is a medical emergency. RSV is dangerous. Don’t wait to get treatment.
2. Go to a children’s hospital.
I know that’s easier said than done. But regular hospitals are not trained, nor are they equipped to deal with premature and small babies.
I took D to my local hospital when he first started showing symptoms. They told me he had pneumonia, gave him a breathing treatment and antibiotics, and sent us home.
A couple hours later, D was getting worse, so we hit the road. Our closest children’s hospital was over an hour away. Luckily, my mom was available to ride with me.
When we arrived at the ER, D was immediately rushed to the back for testing and treatment. As it turns out, he didn’t have pneumonia. He had RSV – and it was bad.
3. RSV is not asthma.
My oldest son has dealt with asthma since he was 2 years old. So when I saw D having a hard time breathing, I immediately gave him a nebulizer treatment in order to help open his airways.
The symptoms looked so similar: shallow breathing and retractions (caving in) around his collar bone. I later learned that nebulizers and inhalers aren’t usually effective when treating RSV.
RSV can be spread through tiny particles in the air from coughing and sneezing. An adult may not even know they have the virus.
Protect your babies. Don’t allow people to hold, touch, or even come close. Siblings should change clothes and wash their hands when they come home from school.
If you know someone with a baby in the NICU, or know someone with a newborn, please share this with them.
NICU parents and new parents are busy. They may not know anything about RSV. You could help them make better decisions than I made.
Click here for more information on RSV.