It’s RSV season – every preemie parent’s least favorite time of year. But for my family last year, we actually welcomed lock down and isolation! Our 23-weeker, Jax, had just gotten home from the hospital and my husband and I were quickly realizing that we were exhausted. I’m not talking about the typical first-time-parents-with-a-new-baby-exhausted (although there was some of that). I’m talking about the kind of exhausted that comes from living with constant terror, stress, and worry for three months straight. I’m talking the kind of exhausted that comes from wondering each day “will our son make it home?”
And there he was. Home. And on oxygen support. And it felt like we hit a brick wall. So, when it was our duty as Jax’s parents to stay home and snuggle up on our couch to keep his immature lungs from being exposed to germs and sickness – oh yes! We liked that!
I only left the house to take Jax to doctor’s appointments. Some days, I didn’t leave the house at all. And the glorious, comfortable weeks turned into long, lonely months and the months turned into never-ending. And then we were sick of our house and, quite frankly, of each other! And when spring came around and we got the go ahead from Jax’s doctors to begin socializing him with other kids, we jumped for joy! And this summer? We were living large: parties and Early Childhood and Family Education classes and friends and family – and now it’s sinking in that all that has to stop.
We’re really not going to like it!
But as parents of a micropreemie with Chronic Lung Disease and bronchomalacia, we know how important isolation is for keeping him safe and sickness-free.
Babies who are born early, like Jax, often have lungs that are not fully formed. Many preemies, especially those with Chronic Lung Disease (or Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia), spend years trying to “catch up” and grow new, healthy lung tissue. Because of immature lungs and other conditions, RSV and related illnesses can mean serious trouble and even hospitalization for a preemie.
So, our family has a True HEPA air purifier that removes viruses from the air, and we use cleaning supplies that have built-in antibacterial properties. We are extremely aware and careful and we will definitely be breaking out the giant bottle of hand sanitizer, wearing masks around Jax if we get sick, and be on the look out for sniffly noses.
Will you be spending time with a preemie or child with lung problems this winter? Here are some ways you can help keep them safe.
7 Ways You Can Help Kids with Lung Disease Stay Healthy
- Wash your hands! (A lot!)
- Wash your hands immediately when you walk in the door. And then wash them again after you use the bathroom, touch garbage, blow your nose, or eat. Wash them again before you touch the child.
- Visit www.lung.org to learn about how to prevent RSV.
- Get a flu shot and a Pertussis vaccine. For real.
- Don’t visit if you or anyone in your family has been sick (especially runny nose, cough, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea) within the past week. (Also, if you’ve been exposed to someone who has been sick within the last week, please do not visit.)
- Please plan to remove your shoes when you visit.
- Please do not smoke before visiting, or shower and change your clothes prior to visiting. Third-hand smoke is real and babies with lung disease are extremely sensitive to smoke.
So, we’re ready! We will print this list and tape it to our doors. We will send an email with this information to all of our family and friends so they are all on board with prevention in mind. Feel free to do the same! We have a Respiratory Action Plan and we know what to do when Jax gets sick. We’re gearing up for RSV season – BLAH!
Parents, what are some strategies you use to keep your kids healthy during cold and flu season?