If you would have asked me two years ago when Preemie Awareness Day was, what RSV was, or told me that there are 13 million babies born early (before 37 weeks gestation) every year I wouldn’t have been able to even acknowledge any of this. In fact, it wasn’t until Xavier was born premature and I was rolled into the NICU to see him for the first time that I realized that there were so many preemie babies born just in the hospital we were at. I had never noticed preemie clothes in the stores or even thought you could buy them at a local retailer.
Preemie Awareness Day: Prematurity and RSV
Today is Preemie Awareness Day. I am here to celebrate all the preemies who have survived and even those that didn’t. As you all know, Xavier was born 2 months early. Throughout most of my pregnancy the doctors felt I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks. The further along I got the more they were just wanting to make sure I made it to 32 weeks. This is because that’s normally the time when babies are done developing and just continue to grow.
Prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs. These babies are at an increased risk of serious medical complications and regularly face weeks or even months in the NICU. This often contributes to mothers feeling powerless, anxious and isolated.
My Premature Baby
I made it to 32 weeks 1 day when Xavier arrived via an emergency C-Section.
Although we knew I wouldn’t make it to the full 40 weeks we just were not prepared for what would come after Xavier arrived so early. Xavier spent 72 days in the NICU before he was able to come home. He was born at 32 weeks 1 day gestation. His lungs were not fully developed and he was diagnosed with chronic lung disease. During the 72 days in the NICU and most of his first year he needed to be helped with his breathing by being on oxygen 24/7. During one of his many visits with his doctors we were advised that Xavier get the RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) shots.
What is RSV and how bad is it?
RSV is contracted by nearly all children by the age of two, often causing relatively minor symptoms that mimic the common cold. However, preemies are most at risk for developing much more serious symptoms, including a serious respiratory infection (severe RSV disease) from the virus, because their lungs are underdeveloped and they don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection.
I hadn’t heard of RSV or any shots for it. I had to ask the doctor exactly what it was and how it would affect Xavier. In long terms, it’s a really bad cold that can be spread through touching, sneezing, and coughing. There are no treatments for it. It’s the leading cause of infant hospitalization. Severe RSV causes up to 10 times as many infant deaths each year as the flu. It’s most prevalent during the winter months; November through March for most of North America. In short-term a premature baby having RSV is like a healthy person having Pneumonia. At least that’s how Xavier’s doctors described it to me in a way for me to understand the severity of it.
Know the Symptoms of RSV
It is advised that you contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
- Severe coughing, wheezing or rapid gasping breaths
- Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
- High fever and extreme fatigue
Prevention of RSV is Key
RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Since there’s no treatment for RSV, parents should take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:
- Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
- Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid large crowds and people who are or have been sick
- Never let anyone smoke near your baby
- Speak with your child’s doctor if he or she may be at high risk for RSV. A preventive therapy may be available
We opted to get the shots for Xavier, which consists of 5 monthly shots (one for each month November – March). He was already a sick baby with respiratory problems. We didn’t want to add to it. Especially since Thaddeus was in school and always seems to come home with colds.
We had actually thought that Xavier had bad reactions to the RVS shots because after his first shot he ended up getting sick and eventually went back into the hospital. He received his second shot while in the hospital and had no reaction and then when he received his third shot he got sick again and went back to the hospital. However, after looking at all the research and more exams we found out that added to the chronic lung disease he had pulmonary hypertension, which was causing him to have trouble breathing and needing to go back onto the oxygen. The other two shots were given without any incidents and he’s doing so much better now!
When Xavier goes in for his next check-up, which will be next week, we will be talking to his doctor to see if they will be recommending him getting the shots again since he is still under two years of age and is still at risk. Although I really do hate giving my boys shots, I know they are for the best and this set in particular is very important for him.