RSV Changed The Way I Parent

I had no idea what RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) was. I am not a medical professional. I am an average mom with three kids.

Like most kids, mine get the sniffles and sneezes during cold and flu season. They are up to date on their vaccinations, and interact with other children on a semi-regular basis. Play dates, playgrounds, the grocery store. I’ve never kept my children in a bubble.

We had our third child in November. Adam was healthy and weighed a whopping 9 lbs. 8 oz. Right before Thanksgiving, my older son started to show signs of a nasty cough. He never ran a fever, and after about a week the virus had run its course. Like most families with multiple children, the virus was passed down to my 2 year old daughter.

It hit her much harder. She ran a high grade fever for 4 days and nights. The nasty cough was causing her to vomit. She wasn’t eating and was extremely lethargic. Between my two older kids, I had been to their pediatrician 7 times in 2 weeks. Finally, my daughter was prescribed an antibiotic for her ear infection, and she started to show signs of life again.

I was extremely naive when it came to my newborn. I seriously thought since I was breastfeeding him he would have extra immunities against this nasty virus my older two were passing back and forth. I was stupid. And I regret it.

I was over at my parents’ house one Saturday evening and my dad was holding Adam when he called me into the living room. “Adam is really sick.” I kind of laughed it off, in a complete sleep deprived stupor. I didn’t want to believe him, because I didn’t think I could handle one more sick child.

That evening Adam took a turn for the worse. He was coughing a phlegmy cough. The next few days were kind of a blur. Adam was taken back to the pediatrician twice, the second time his nose was swabbed and he tested positive for RSV and bronchiolitis.

“What is RSV?” I asked a tech. She couldn’t tell me. Just said to watch him closely. I should have pressed the pediatrician’s office more, but I kind of felt dumb. I was now on my 9th visit in two weeks. So I left.

That Wednesday night Adam started running a low grade fever. What I DIDN’T know was even a low grade fever is dangerous for a newborn. Stupid, like I said. He was vomiting after every feed. The next morning he had gone a full 12 hours without a wet diaper. I called back to the doctor’s office. Instead of setting up my 10th appointment, they told me to take him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital immediately.

Adam spent 4 days and 3 nights hooked up to oxygen, IVs, fluids, antibiotics. He had multiple tests, chest X-rays, breathing treatments, nose aspirations. His care and treatment at Nationwide Children’s was FIRST CLASS! I can’t rave enough about the hospital and staff. While I loved the hospital, I never want to have to go back again.

In the past few days I’ve seen multiple articles about RSV pop up on my news feed. The reason I’m sharing our story is because I want other parents to know WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW. 

  • Watch their breathing. Take your child’s shirt off and see if you can see their ribcage when they are trying to breathe. There is a tiny V shape under your child’s neck. When they suck in if that V is exposed, they are working too hard to breathe. Lastly, does their head bob when they breathe? If so, they are working too hard. Adam was doing all 3 of these for a few days.
  • RSV peaks on days 3-5. I didn’t take him in to Children’s until day 5. Unfortunately, it’s a virus that causes patients to get worse before they get better.
  • RSV is common. Like super common. The average adult will get RSV multiple times in their lifetime. It’s just a cough with a common cold. For Luke, it was just a cough…for Eden, it was a fever, cough and vomiting…for Adam it was 4 days at Children’s Hospital.
  • The RSV cough will last 4-6 weeks. My kids are FINALLY free of that nasty cough, but my husband and my mom are still coughing. This virus affected our entire family before Thanksgiving. It’s now mid-January!
  • For medical professionals to consider it “RSV Season” they must see 5% of patients test positive for RSV. So far this winter, they’ve seen 49% of patients test positive. I’m not sure if medical professionals or the CDC will call that an epidemic, but they should.
  • Hand washing is great, but isolation is best. If you have kids and plan on coming in contact with a newborn…just stay away! Children are carriers of this virus, and while it may be a slight cough for a 5 year old, it could be deadly for a 5 day or 5 week old.
  • Rain brings RSV. While there is no scientific evidence of this, researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital tell me when the weather warms up and the rain sweeps through, RSV is on the rise.

People may think I’m crazy, but I’ve cancelled playdates and seek out a babysitter if anyone shows a sign of a sniffle. Our family cancelled two vacations because of this virus.

Since our run with RSV, Adam is now part of a case study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Medical researchers are working on a vaccine for RSV. There currently is one for preemies, but this vaccine would be readily available to all newborns. I am hoping Adam is able to help save future babies from contracting this horrible virus. And I’m hoping our story sheds some light on a virus I previously knew nothing about.

**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am just an average mom who wanted to share her story about how RSV affected our family. If there is anything in this blog post that is inaccurate, please email me at hello@shesbecomingdomestic.com OR leave a comment below!**

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RSV typically peaks on day 5. This photo was taken on Day 6 of the virus.
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One thing I was able to do at the hospital was hold him. I’m a firm believer in the power of touch. I held Adam every single second of the day until it was time for bed. I think I left the room 3 times in 4 days.

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Shanisty is a former award winning journalist who left the news business to chase her rug rats for a living. She shares real, raw and personable stories focusing on the ups and downs of parenting. Sign up to never miss a post!

10 thoughts on “RSV Changed The Way I Parent

  1. Thanks for sharing this Shanisty! I just had my baby girl tested for this last week, needless to say they accidentally tested her for whooping cough (came back negative) but still. They said since her cough was getting better that no need to come in and re-test. But I am going to make sure I keep an eye on it.
    I am so glad that Adam is doing better. Take care of yourself and your beautiful family!

  2. Great read Shanisty. One of our great grands was treated for RSV and like you I had no idea what that was so I Googled it and found out it is some nasty stuff. Glad your little one is better. I am a firm believer in children’s hospitals and as you know we have a top notch one here in Alabama;

    1. Ronnie, thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying for your little great grand. It’s a terrible virus. You are lucky to have Children’s of Alabama. Excellent hospital.

  3. Our first had RSV and was hospitalized after her oxygen levels dropping to 68%. Our childcare provider said, “she has been wheezing all day” and never called us. Her respitory system was scarred, and they told us it will take 5-10 years for the damage to repair. This had caused countless other issues including possible asthma diagnosis. Great article, we had never heard of RSV either

  4. Our first had RSV at 9mo and was hospitalized after her oxygen levels dropping to 68%. Our childcare provider said, “she has been wheezing all day” and never called us. Her respitory system was scarred, and they told us it will take 5-10 years for the damage to repair. This had caused countless other issues including possible asthma diagnosis. Great article, we had never heard of RSV either

    1. OMG. Ashley! You must have been heartbroken. 5-10 years to repair?? My goodness. This virus is so damaging. The doctors did tell us asthma was also a possibility later in life. It’s a horrible virus.

  5. The reason it’s so deadly for babies is because they’re obligate nose breathers and respiratory viruses obviously plugs up your nose. They don’t switch to breathing through her mouth when their nose is plugged up. Babies and children also become dehydrated much quicker than adults and it can be devastating for them. I feel for you because you’re clinic should have explained what to look for and how to know when to take him to the hospital, and that he could indeed end up in the hospital, when he first tested positive for RSV. If they didn’t, that’s not right. I am a NICU nurse so I have more knowledge about this but you’re right, a lot of families don’t and they need to. Side note-your baby probably did have a little extra immunity from breast-feeding, but you’re right not enough to keep him from getting the virus altogether. Breast-feeding immunity is not a vaccine it’s just a little help with immunity factors. Anyway, so glad your little one is OK!!

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