It happens every winter.
Sniffling, runny nose, coughing so badly he can’t sleep. It’s like I can measure the change in seasons by the change in his health.
I pull the nebulizer from a cabinet in the hall. Hello old friend, I think.
He cries when he sees it. “Do I have to?” he asks.
“Yes, buddy,” I say. “It will make you feel better.” And so we put on the mask.
This has been our ritual since my son was two years old. He’s seven now, so you would think we would be ready for it by now. But every year it sneaks up on us.
You see, when he was just barely two, my son contracted RSV. When he first showed signs, I took him to urgent care to be checked out just in case. I was the crazy first-time mom who was always taking her coughing baby to the doctor. It’s probably just a cold, they told me.
But 48 hours later, I knew something wasn’t right. He had only gotten worse, and I could see his little chest puffing in and out, working hard to get air into his lungs. We went to the pediatrician, and that is when we got the news: It was RSV.
His blood oxygen levels were low and the pediatrician ordered a breathing treatment to help clear his lungs. He sent us home with a prescription for albuterol, a nebulizer, and strict instructions to conduct breathing treatments every four hours.
And he wanted to see us back first thing in the morning to check Andrew’s blood oxygen levels again.
This repeated for a whole week. Constant breathing treatments. Trips to the pediatrician every day to check the blood oxygen levels. If they dropped, we would have to go straight to the hospital.
Thankfully, they never did.
But this was our new reality. Maybe he had asthma all along and the RSV just aggravated it. Maybe we would have always ended up with a kiddo who struggles to breathe when the weather changes and has to endure breathing treatments to get by.
We got so lucky. There are many families who aren’t as blessed. They end up with babies in the hospital, hooked to monitors, fighting for their lives.
The thing about RSV is that it is SO dangerous, and SO contagious. For an older kid, it’s just a cold. But it is so much more deadly for newborns and younger kids.
I know so many parents who see their coughing child as just an inconvenience. They send them to school or daycare anyway because they aren’t running a fever.
Andrew never ran a fever with RSV.
This time of year, please be mindful. Your kiddo could have RSV and you don’t even realize it. They could be spreading this virus, endangering every child they come into contact with.
Please, please, please keep your sick kids home.