Cold and flu season is here, which means you’ve probably started to hear a lot of people coughing and sneezing. When you’re a NICU parent, these sounds can make you panic. We aren’t just worried catching a cold or the flu. We’re worried about respiratory infections, specifically RSV!
Keep your babies – and yourselves – healthy by following these five ways to prevent respiratory infections this season.
Wash Your Hands
The CDC states that regular hand washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to avoid illness and the spread of germs. Activities include before, during and after preparing food, before eating, after using the restroom and more. The CDC also recommends using a method of wet, lather, scrub for at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday!), rinse and dry.
For a complete list of when and how the CDC recommends washing your hands, visit their website.
Protect your children and babies over 6 months of age from the flu by getting them and yourself vaccinated. Read the CDC’s information and recommendations on children and vaccines.
Create a Quarantined Environment
No one wants to remain in isolation for months at a time, but during cold and flu season, babies with underdeveloped respiratory systems are most at risk. Coming in contact with someone else who is ill could easily turn into a nightmare if your baby contracts RSV. RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization of infants younger than 1 year of age in the United States, and can lead to serious complications like pneumonia and bronchiolitis – and even respiratory failure.
Many families go into isolation during cold and flu season, for the health and safety of their preemie:
Create a Germ-Free Home
It can be difficult for family and friends to understand exactly how frightening RSV and flu season is for NICU parents. If you accept visitors, encourage them to do these things to keep your home germ free:
- remove shoes
- wash hands
- use sanitizer
- alert you if they or someone they are close to has been ill within the last week
If a potential visitor or someone close to them has been ill within the last week, encourage them to reschedule their visit. What may seem like a slight inconvenience could mean the difference between a healthy baby and a sick one.
Print out this handy “Germ-Free Zone” printable to place on your door or in your entryway when visitors arrive.
Find Out If Your Child Qualifies for Antibody Injections
Though no vaccine for RSV exists, antibody injections such as Synagis and preventative treatment known as palivizumab can help protect preemies from RSV. Synagis is a prescription medication that is used to help prevent a serious lung disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children at high risk for severe lung disease from RSV. This video from the National Coalition for Infant Health explains how some premature infants whose health plans don’t cover preventive RSV treatment may suffer – and unnecessarily so.
5 Resources You Need to Know
5 People Who Can Help
It’s important to get the facts about RSV and the flu, but it’s also important to get help. You are not alone. These are some of the people who can help:
- Your Child’s Pediatrician – Talk to your pediatrician. They can help you understand if your baby is vulnerable to complications from flu and RSV and prescribe Synagis® if your baby qualifies as being at high-risk. Make sure your child receives all their vaccinations on schedule and according to their chronological age, versus adjusted age
- A Pulmonologist – Can help treat your baby for breathing problems, chronic lung disease, and other respiratory conditions
- Your Family and Friends – We need to build a circle of immunity around our families. If every healthy adult and child got vaccinated for flu, pertussis (whooping cough), and other infectious diseases these diseases couldn’t spread as quickly and infect the most vulnerable members of our families and communities
- Case Managers – Case Managers can be found at insurance companies, pediatric practices, and through state-funded programs like Medicaid and Children with Special Health Care Needs programs. Case managers help coordinate your child’s care, find specialists, and get approval for therapies, services, and prescription coverage. They can also help if you need to appeal a denial of coverage.
- Other NICU Parents – Sometimes you just want to talk to another family who’s walked in your shoes. Peer support can help you navigate hard decisions and make informed choices. If you need support contact Hand to Hold and get connected with families like yours.