Preemie Health During Cold, Flu and RSV Season

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Preemie Health During Cold, Flu and RSV Season

My daughter Becky was born at 30-weeks gestation in very early September and her due date was supposed to be mid-November.  In our first actual meeting with Becky’s neonatologist, one of the first things she brought up was the fact that cold and flu season was coming and that so was RSV season.  I looked at her and turned instantly pale.  She was surprised that as a first time mother I knew what RSV was. 

“Yes a friend’s full-term daughter had it and was hospitalized for a number of days due to being really sick,” I noted to the doctor. “So what can we do to protect our premature baby?”  The pit of my stomach was clenching in fear because here I was watching my daughter work through serious breathing issues, heart issues, thermoregulation issues and more.  And RSV could wreak havoc with her, it could kill her.  The doctor was clear that though this was a very serious issue, that indeed there was a drug that could help her through the season and mitigate the effects of RSV should she contract it.  I was beyond grateful to hear that there was a drug to help.  The thought of my daughter struggling just to live and get out of the hospital only get hammered by this extremely contagious virus left me paranoid about anyone touching my daughter.  The same with the flu and any other colds.

So what do you do?  Here are some things that helped me through that period of time:

  • Handwashing for everyone, no exceptions. Let your OCD reign and make sure every visitor you have in the NICU or at home getting within a foot of your baby has washed his/her hands properly - two minutes or more.
  • Hand sanitizer is your friend (and your baby’s, too). Have it handy in the pumping bag, the diaper bag, at every single sink in the house and by every single door to the outside.  In a pinch this can save the day and your baby’s immune system.
  • Blame it on the NICU docs, they will be glad you did it. Ask the NICU for a letter, then take a picture and post and text it to everyone you know regarding visitors at home, handwashing, why RSV season is real and a huge danger to preemies even after the NICU.
  • No smokers allowed, even if they say they won’t smoke in the house. Unfortunately smoking can create all sorts of havoc for preemies even at home and not just during RSV Season as preemies are at high risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and one symptom is linked to having a smoker around them.  Be firm, really firm, about this.
  • At the Pediatrician’s ask for help upon arrival. If the doctor’s office has separate waiting rooms (sick room, well room) then move to the well room.  If that won’t work or there isn’t a well room, then ask the front desk to put you into a back room that is not being used until your appointment time.  If the front desk person can’t help you, ask for the Office Manager and get help that way.
  • Remember, you are the parent, period. Yes, you will find that your friends and family list gets a bit shorter as you work through discharge and that squabble over coming to visit the baby the first time.  You are the parent and therefore the person in charge of the baby, not him, nor her.  They do not get to make this decision.  If they have a problem with it, then it is their problem, period.

Having a family on lockdown during RSV season is a real challenge.  Make sure to talk to your child’s lung doctor (pulmonologist) about this prior to discharge.  The pediatrician is a decent go-to but is not a specialist that will truly understand RSV.  

Oh and my daughter?  She made it through that first season without RSV thanks to the monthly (Synagis) injections.  But we also were diligent hand-washers, screeners of the few visitors we had in to see her and made sure we all got flu shots. 


Deb Discenza is the Founder and CEO/Publisher of PreemieWorld, LLC and the co-Author to The Preemie Parent’s Survival Guide to the NICU.  (  She also runs the free Inspire Preemie Community, 40,000+ strong at