Protecting Your Baby from RSV


by Amy McCarthy

According to the Center for Disease Control, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, is one ofthe most common illnesses affecting children under the age of two. In fact, almost every child in the United States will contract RSV before their second birthday.

As your child gets older, her immune system develops and is able to fend off bacteria and viruses. Newborns, on the other hand, have very few natural defenses against disease, especially those babies that are born prematurely.

Crystal and Marshall Diehl of Duluth, Minnesota, know all too intimately the risks of RSV. Their daughter Audrey was born at just 25 weeks gestation and spent over 100 days fighting in the NICU. Once her health had improved, she was able to come home but still at a high risk for RSV.

“She was born at 25 weeks, and at 12 ounces, she was the size of a soda can. Her doctors didn’t really give us much hope - they’d say “she’s OK for now,” remembers Audrey’s mother Crystal. “Two months later, the “ifs” turned into “whens,” and we started getting ready to take her home. The NICU had lots of information about the risks of infection, and her doctors agreed - we needed to stay away from RSV.”

Audrey’s doctor prescribed a preventative therapy for RSV that was recommended for high-risk infants, but her parents’ insurance company declined to cover it. Through a campaign of dedicated nurses, doctors, family, and friends, the Diehl family petitioned their insurance company to cover Audrey’s therapy, and they eventually did.

“After 3 weeks, the insurance company just wasn’t returning our calls anymore. The hospital, doctors, and our family just sort of banded together to get Audrey taken care of,” said Crystal. Audrey began treatment, but the fight had really just started.

“Then came the task of preventing RSV,” she said. “We were constantly asking visitors questions. Have you washed your hands? Are you sick? Have you been smoking cigarettes?” The family even missed their Christmas and Thanksgiving get-togethers to keep Audrey away from any potential illnesses.

Now, Audrey Diehl is a happy and healthy 18 month old. She never contracted RSV. “You have to be vigilant, and constantly aware of your surroundings,” said Crystal. “It may not be easy for a few months, but the health of your child is more than worth it.”

HEALTH NOTE: Signs & Symptoms of RSV 

If your child is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, you may want to see your pediatrician.

- RSV usually begins about 4 to 6 days after exposure with a runny nose and a decrease in appetite.

- Coughing, sneezing, and fever develop 1 to 3 days later, along with wheezing.

- In infants, irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties may be the only symptoms of RSV.

- For children without complications (like premature babies and those with decreased immune systems) hospitalization may not be necessary, and in most cases full recovery occurs in 1 to 2 weeks.

SOURCE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention