October 1st is the unofficial start of cold and flu season. For Preemie families, this marks the start of the most anxiety-ridden part of the year. Since preemies have underdeveloped lungs when they are born, and since they are generally lacking in antibodies, they are very susceptible to any kind of illness or infection. Further, their airways are generally narrower than full term babies, making them more likely to have breathing problems as a result of illness.
Isolation is the best medicine for cold and flu (and soon, RSV) season. No exposure means no germs. People have told me that she needs to have SOME exposure in order to build her immune system, and that we can’t keep her in the bubble forever. These would both be true, if she was full term. She needs to have time to build up her immune system through antibodies in breastmilk. She needs to have time for her lungs to continue to develop. She needs time to get bigger and stronger. She needs the bubble because she can’t fight things off quite yet.
Her Synagis shot (to help prevent severe RSV) should be coming at the end of this month. She’ll get this shot once a month for 5 months. Most babies get RSV by age 2, and build immunity quickly. It’s usually just a case of sniffles, maybe a cough. For a preemie, RSV can easily require hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, even a respirator. Adults can be carriers and feel perfectly fine. RSV is one reason the isolation is so important.
My public service announcement: get your flu shot. Not only will you be protecting yourself, you’ll be protecting vulnerable populations (like babies) who can’t get the vaccine yet, but who are at highest risk of complications.