Thank you to Sanofi for sponsoring this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed below are my own.

A flood of emotions overcome me as I scan the archived photos that occasionally pop up on my phone. I glance at my phone and have to quickly look away. Seeing my 5 week old baby hooked up to machines takes me back to a place I never want to go again.

Six years later I am still haunted by our time spent at the hospital as my third child, Adam, fought for his life.

At the time, I had never heard of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and simply thought my infant had a cold. After all, it was close to Christmas and cold and flu season was in full swing. Adam was otherwise very healthy, born full-term weighing 9 lbs. 8 oz.

Like many families, Adam had two older siblings who were in preschool and bringing home every cough and sniffle. Adam was diagnosed with RSV at just 5 weeks old. He tested positive at the doctor’s office. “Mrs. Ireland, your son has RSV, take him home and watch him.” I stared at the tech, in confusion because I had never heard of RSV before and didn’t know what I was supposed to be “watching” for. I felt very alone, scared and very uninformed.

After a long 24 hours at home, Adam wasn’t improving so I rushed him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where we spent 5 terrifying days. I watched my baby fight for his life from a virus I still knew very little about.

During that time in the hospital I made a promise to myself and to my baby that I would do everything in our power to prevent other families from experiencing what we did.

Which is why I am thrilled to partner with Rally Against RSV a disease awareness initiative launched in October 2021 by Sanofi. The primary focus of the program is to educate parents and families about RSV) – including what it is, how to recognize it and who it impacts.

Here are some quick hitting facts about RSV:

What is RSV?

  • RSV is a common, and very contagious, virus that infects the respiratory tract of most children before their second birthday. For most babies and young children, the infection causes nothing more than a cold. But for some babies, like Adam, it can potentially be deadly.

Who can get RSV?

  • RSV can strike anyone! It has a potentially deadly effect on anyone, however those at highest risk are:
  • Premature infants
  • Young children who have congenital heart or lung disease
  • Children with weakened immune systems
  • Infants in crowded child care settings or with older siblings in school
  • Elderly
  • Adults with asthma, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

How dangerous is RSV?

  • RSV is the #1 cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 2 in the United States.
  • It is the 2nd leading cause of death for infants worldwide, behind malaria.

What does RSV look like?

Mild cases:

  • Congested or runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

Severe cases like our 5 week old Adam:

  • Fever
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing — a high-pitched noise that’s usually heard on breathing out (exhaling)
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Visible rib cage with labored breathing
  • V-like shape under the chin
  • Bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen
  • Poor feeding
  • Unusual tiredness (lethargy)
  • Irritability

Can RSV be prevented?
This is really hard for families with multiple children. Trust me, I know from experience. In our case, Luke got RSV first from preschool. He was 3 years old at the time, he passed it down to Eden who was 2 years old, she passed it down to Adam who was just a few weeks old. When you have lots of children living under one roof, it’s so challenging to keep them isolated. I get it!

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid exposure. Limit your infant’s contact with people who have fevers or colds. Especially during those first 2 months of life.
  • Sanitize.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses with others.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Wash toys regularly.
  • Don’t let anyone kiss your baby!

When is RSV season?

  • RSV season typically starts in our region (the Midwest) in mid-September and runs to April.
  • See attached photo to see when RSV is especially dangerous where you live.

Are there long-lasting effects of RSV? 

YES!

  • Asthma. There may be a link between severe respiratory syncytial virus in children and the chance of developing asthma later in life.
  • Repeated infections. Once you’ve had RSV, it’s common for the infection to come back. It’s even possible for it to happen during the same RSV season.
  • Recurrent wheezing.

October is RSV Awareness Month and this October is especially spooky for us as we have an infant at home. I’m extremely cautious of who comes in contact with our baby.

I like to share our story to keep you informed and to help build awareness around this Really Scary Virus. I also want you to know that if you have any questions about RSV Rally Against RSV is an excellent resource.

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. Just know, if you are a parent with a child who has had RSV or is currently battling it, you are NOT alone!

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