I stood at th door, chatting with my neighbor as she packed up her drowsy two-year-old after a ruckus third birthday party for little Joseph. “It was so nice to have you over! We haven’t seen you in ages,” I offered. To reply, she dropped this bomb: “yeah, we’ve been busy. Last week the kids were all sick with RSV.” I gulped hard, meekly repeating, “RSV?”
If I were able to pronounce it, I might have shouted, “Respiratory Syncycial Virus!” as though it were an accusation, shaking my fist in protest.
Sure enough, two days later, my son (who had blown into every last noisemaker available at the party, regardless of owner) developed a barking cough, runny nose and slight fever–fetchingly accessorized with a wad of goop in each eye. Eeew. Then, my little Noah, shirker of every cold and flu, began to bark and cough, rasping for breath and crying every time he swallowed. Then Daddy got it. Either I’ve got a heck of an immune system, or my ability to catch a virus is as sharp as my my ability to catch anything thrown my way, but it always takes several weeks of repeated exposure if I finally catch a virus.
According to Dr. Jim Sears, RSV is a virus that causes a respiratory tract infection. It can cause respiratory tract illness in patients of all ages, but children under the age of one are especially vulnerable. RSV is a very serious concern for infants. In fact, it is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia and is the leading cause of viral death in children under the age of five. It has also been shown that RSV is the number one reason for hospitalization of children under the age of one.
At 11 o’clock at night, this is not the news you want to read when your 10-month-old infant is feverish, red-faced and wailing. None of us slept. I kept vigil over my fitful baby, nudging him whenever the word “apnea” broke across my sleepy mind, and my husband tended to little Joseph. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say each year as many as 125,000 children are hospitalized with serious RSV disease and some may die from complications. We were officially freaked out.
The next day, a visit to our ped (Dr. Mitchell Naficy) put us at ease. The boys are sick, but it isn’t life-threatening, and better yet, there is nothing we can do but ride it out, expecting symtoms to disappear over 3-4 days. I say ‘better yet’, because I also read about a shot called Synagis® (palivizumab) which may be administered (and anyone who knows me knows how I hate “new” pharmaceuticals (It’s 10 years old.). Reality check: little Joseph has embraced his “sick days” indoors—vitamin-fortified juices are appearing regularly, we’re cuddling up for Jungle Book and old Charlie Brown reruns, and of course, the three P’s (puzzles, painting and play dough.) Noah, on the other hand, is miserable. Fever after fever, sore throat and lack of appetite. Thank God I’m still nursing, or the child might starve and/or dehydrate.
Dr. Naficy also mentioned how these symtoms are sweeping the nation. In fact, I was on the phone with my dad who was visiting retired friends in Florida this month with exactly the same cough and cold and also ran into my neighbor whose daughter was one of our party guests, and she has developed “the bark.”
The birthday gift that just keeps on giving!
Allow me to close with a personal note so obvious I shouldn’t have to say it: Don’t bring your sick kid to a birthday party! RSVP no, thank you, we have RSV!