It’s almost April?!!! Don’t even ask me how that happened. It’s lovely though, the leaves are changing, the nights are cooler, and the sky has that pale blue to it that hints of those sunny winter days. It’s Autumn, which means that winter is coming. To most people winter is the snow season, the soup season, the scarf season. For parents of premature infants winter is the RSV season and a few mums have asked for some help in explaining to others just what this means. So here you go.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Or more simply Really Serious Virus.
I’ve talked a lot about germs, hand hygiene and keeping our kids safe from illness. But we have been home from hospital a while right? He’s big and sturdy and looks so happy and healthy right? Absolutely. On the outside.
The things you can’t see are on the inside, as his lungs continue to work really hard to grow new healthy tissue to replace all the chronic lung diseased tissue that fills his chest.
Statistically if we can get our little man through his first winter relatively unscathed, and if we can avoid RSV then his long term respiratory outlook is remarkably improved. Like, astoundingly.
As a paediatric nurse I work with little babies with RSV every single day. I monitor them as they struggle to breathe and I put tubes down their throats because they can’t eat and breathe at the same time. I hold masks over their faces to administer inhalers, nebulisers, and oxygen. I hit the emergency bell for more help when I see that this kid is about to stop breathing. From a cold. A normal, everyday, run of the mill cold.
RSV gives an adult a congested nose for a few days, a chesty cough if they are unlucky. To diseased lungs RSV can be a death sentence.
If that description isn’t enough here’s a visual of the lung tissue of a term baby and the lung tissue of a premature baby. Imagine a little mucous getting into huge adult lung? Then imagine it getting into a term baby’s lungs, blocking it 2/3 of the way up and making it pretty hard to breathe. Then imagine that in a preemies lung tissue, there’s no breathing room.
Now it’s hard for us, as parents, to say please, don’t come inside. Because we feel rude, antisocial, and over protective. But as we all head into winter I ask you to bear with us, and understand that if we can get through this winter, then we can breathe a little more easily. In every way!
So if you’ve got a friend or family member with a premature baby that’s heading into its first or second winter, please consider the lungs and the terror of the ICU. Because that’s where they will go. Please stay away if you or anyone in your family is sick, especially young children. And please remember that it’s only a couple of months. Then we will all emerge bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for springtime adventures!