It was a holiday miracle that became a nightmare.
After being born 10 weeks premature, AnnJolina Harlan went home from Norton Children’s Hospital right after Thanksgiving last year. Four days after Christmas, she was back in the hospital fighting for her life.
“She wouldn’t wake up to eat,” said Tonya Harlan, AnnJolina’s mom. “We knew something was wrong.”
AnnJolina’s heart rate plummeted and she could barely breathe. She spent another five weeks at Norton Children’s Hospital, four of those in a coma and on a ventilator.
“It was awful,” Tonya said. “She was hooked up to more machines and tubes than when she born. We really didn’t know if AnnJolina was going to make it.”
The culprit of AnnJolina’s condition: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Not just a cold
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but the illness can be fatal for infants, especially those born premature. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than 1 year in the United States and leads to thousands of hospitalizations each year.
“Babies can get RSV any time of year, but it’s most common from November to April,” said William L. Weber, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Fern Creek. “In fact, we’re seeing cases in our office.”
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Keep your family healthy this cold and RSV season.
Dr. Weber said there are steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others.
“Ideally, anyone with cold-like symptoms shouldn’t interact with children at high risk for RSV, including premature infants, kids younger than 2 years with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems,” Dr. Weber said. “If that’s unavoidable, proper handwashing is key.”
Parents of children at high risk for developing severe RSV should help their child by:
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Washing their hands often with soap and water
- Not touching their face with unwashed hands
Limiting time they spend in child care centers or other potentially contagious settings, especially during fall, winter and spring