As seasonal viruses begin to circulate this autumn, there is no better time to educate new and expecting parents of a common virus contracted by nearly 100 percent of infants by the age of two – Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). RSV disease is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies in the US during their first year of life, and can cause up to approximately 200 infant deaths in the US each year.
RSV may cause mild cold or flu-like symptoms, but in some babies – such as premature babies or those with chronic lung disease – it can cause a serious respiratory infection often requiring hospitalization. When signs like persistent coughing or wheezing, rapid, difficult or labored breathing occur, for example, it is important to contact your pediatrician.
Eight years ago, Kari Judson’s family was impacted by RSV. She shares her story and advice to other parents in an effort to raise awareness of this devastating disease.
Kari Judson’s Story
I replay in my mind the first time my pediatrician told me that my twin boys, Alexander and Dominic, were born each weighing just under five pounds – “a healthy weight for twins,” he said. My boys were considered full-term when they were born at 36 weeks and two days, did not require time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and were even healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital before I was! For the next 11 months, Alexander and Dominic were relatively healthy and illness-free. Then, a week before their first birthday, every parent’s worst nightmare became our reality. In the emergency room, we found out Alexander had a severe case of RSV disease, and was transferred in a pediatric ambulance to another hospital, from which he was airlifted to yet another soon after.
Alexander developed a cold, began exhibiting signs of fatigue, and felt slightly feverish, so we took him to the emergency room as a precautionary measure. My husband and I were completely shocked by the quick pace of events, all in a matter of hours. Alexander’s condition worsened so quickly – within 24 hours doctors decided to place him on a life support machine and he later passed away.
At the same time, Alexander’s twin, Dominic, was also diagnosed with RSV. His infection was also severe and required intense treatment throughout an 11-day hospital stay, including oxygen therapy for ten days and breathing treatments that he continued once discharged. Dominic is eight years old today and remains healthy.
I don’t want any parent to go through what I did with my twins. I have made it my personal mission to raise awareness of the preventive measures parents and guardians can take to help keep their children healthy and what questions to ask their pediatrician. From this experience, I learned to take steps to reduce the risk that my two children born after Dominic and Alexander did not become seriously ill from RSV. I recommend that parents remind children to wash their hands often, sanitize their child’s belongings (toys, clothes, blankets and sheets) regularly to prevent exposure to germs, and visit their child’s pediatrician to learn if he or she may be at high risk for severe RSV disease.
To learn more about RSV and how to help protect your child’s lungs from RSV disease, visit www.rsvprotection.com.