A few weeks ago, my family boarded an airplane for the first of two legs of a really long flight. Flying always makes me worry that one of my kids is going to catch someone’s illness simply because we are cramped so close together with hundreds of people and their germs…but what happened throughout the flight with my 9-month-old infant son was downright scary. Strangers that I didn’t know from Adam would pass by our row (where I was seated, holding the baby) and reach out and touch my son on his head, his cheeks, his hands – the same hands he pretty much constantly shoves in and out of his mouth – it was a nightmare for this germophobe mom!
I know these strangers didn’t mean any harm. In fact, they were all super nice and simply wanted to let me know what a cute, sweet baby I was holding. All I could really do was sit there, pinned by my seatbelt to my tiny airplane seat with a smile pasted to my face as I said, “Thank you,” while inside I was counting the seconds until I could reach into my diaper bag and grab a wet wipe to try to get rid of all the cooties these kind people were smearing all over my young son.
Do you think I am overreacting (or underreacting) to the whole germ spreading situation? I’m one of only one-third of mothers who says they have heard of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a very common health threat to young children, especially babies. RSV is highly contagious and easily spread. This virus will affect almost all children by age 2, and is the leading cause of infant hospitalization each year (125,000 hospitalized, 500 deaths).
The Center for Disease Control has defined “RSV season” (in North America) as November through March. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for RSV, but parents and caretakers can take preventative measures to guard their children:
- Frequent hand washing
- Frequent bedding washing
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid cigarette smoke.
Most older children with RSV have symptoms similar to the flu or common cold. However, some babies, especially preemies or babies with certain lung or heart diseases, are more likely to get RSV and parents should be aware of all the RSV symptoms and discuss preventative measures with their health care provider.
Baby Etiquette Tips:
If you plan to visit a new baby, remember that RSV germs can live on surfaces for several hours and that RSV can be transmitted through touching, hugging and kissing. Wash your hands upon entering the home and prior to holding the baby (please remember to ask for a parent’s permission before touching the baby) and avoid any visit at all if you have had a recent illness.