The holidays are over, but the season of all the scary things just started for parents like me who have suffered with their child contracting the respiratory syncytial virus, the common cold or the flu.

Having a baby diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) when he was 4-months-old was overwhelming for me because I am a first-time mom. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are an estimated 58,000–80,000 RSV-infected children, younger than 5 years old who are hospitalized every year in the United States. Even though all children get an RSV infection by the age of two, it can also cause severe illness, such as infections like bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia. Infants who are hospitalized may require oxygen, IV fluids (if they aren’t eating and drinking), and mechanical ventilation (a machine to help with breathing)” according to CDC.

On the Respiratory Syncytial Virus page, it states that there is no vaccine yet to prevent RSV, but scientists are working hard to develop one.

Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.
Levi Hernandez

The first time my son Levi had it, I really thought it was just the common flu. I didn’t know better. Some of the symptoms Levi had were yellow mucus, difficulty breathing, fuzziness and a mild cough. 

In the middle of the night, watching him struggle to breathe was heartbreaking. Sometimes I would sit with him in my arms until he fell asleep because that was the only way that he would get rest. 

My primary concern as a parent is keeping my child safe and healthy. In unpredictable times, it can be hard to ensure his well-being when he faces challenges like these.

I’ve seen RSV strike families left and right. Some of my former friends have spent sleepless nights in the hospital while their children receive treatment for RSV. Contracting RSV can be very serious, just like my friend’s experience. You can have your baby be hooked on oxygen and with a high fever.  So, believe me when I say that I can be an overprotective mama and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him safe — and if that means canceling plans or letting you know upfront how I feel about you hugging him or kissing him, so be it.

This is my second RSV season as a mom, and the rise in cases this year is unsettling, to say the least. As a mother who is concerned, I’m doing all I can to decrease my child’s chances of contracting the virus. An article by Medicine Net, states that the mortality rate of RSV in babies depends on the immunity status of the child, which in healthy children, the reported mortality rate is about 0.5 to 1.7 percent.

Babies who are at greater risk for RSV include premature infants, infants younger than six months, children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease, children with weakened immune systems, and children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions, according to the CDC.

dehydration. It can be water, juice, or even Pedialyte for babies if they don’t want to drink milk or formula. Another recommendation they often suggest is to give them over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. And that’s only if they present with a high fever.
Levi and mom, Amairani Hernandez.

Levi’s doctor strongly recommended drinking plenty of fluids in order to avoid dehydration. It can be water, juice, or even Pedialyte for babies if they don’t want to drink milk or formula. Another recommendation they often suggest is to give them over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. And that’s only if they present with a high fever.

One of my favorite tools during hard times like these is the NoseFrida Snotsucker made by Fridababy. You can find it at your nearest Target store, or Walgreens for $17.99. It’s a great tool to alleviate your little one’s stuffy nose. Also, their humidifier is a must-have because if the baby’s room is dry the humidifier will bring back moisture into the room. I paid about $55 for mine, which works very well because aside from being a humidifier it is also a diffuser and a color-changing nightlight. You may not see fast results with all these recommendations, but they do help your baby feel better.

Parents of children at high risk for developing severe RSV disease should help their child, do the following according to the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching their face with unwashed hands
  • Limit the time they spend in childcare centers or other potentially contagious settings during periods of high RSV activity. This may help prevent infection and the spread of the virus during the RSV season.

It is very important for moms to be cautious since their babies can spread the virus to family members in their households. Infected persons can spread it by coughing or sneezing close to you. It can also be contracted by touching the surface that has the virus on it. This last one I emphasize the most to family members and friends because babies often get sick from people who kiss their cute little faces.

Please note that I am not a medical professional; I am just a young, 26-year-old Latina mom who wanted to share her story about how RSV affected our baby.

I am a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism and film, the oldest of three siblings, and a first-time mom, so I can say I’ve done a lot of firsts. 

I come from a small family, so I’m protective of the people I love. I am also a writer for CALÓ NEWS and I focus on stories about Latinos, including social justice, art, culture, and now my experiences as a first-time mom. I hope this platform helps and guides other moms like me. If there is anything I can help with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email at amairani@latinomedia.org.

So, stay safe!

Amairani Hernandez

Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a freelancer and focuses on stories about Latinos,...