RSV Protection and Baby Etiquette

by Kelsey Norwood

in Mom Central Tour

When you bring home a new baby, all the support from family and friends is wonderful right? Everyone wants to help and hold…

But babies are so susceptible to germs and even the most minor illness for an adult can be life threatening for a baby. Parents of new babies have to know the risks and be fearless in protecting their infant from germs and infection.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is one of the most serious concerns because it spreads easily and is so common. Most kids get RSV during their toddler years, and for an older child it can be no big deal, nothing more than a common cold. For infants, RSV can be life-threatening.

I’ve shared our story before – at 8 months old, Gus woke up one Saturday morning barely breathing. He had been a little sick the night before, and the next morning he was completely lethargic, white as a ghost, and his respiratory muscles were retracting with every breath (meaning he was struggling with all his might to get enough air into his lungs).

We took him to the ER where he almost died in the first 8 hours and stayed for 4 days.

RSV is one of the most common causes of pneumonia in young children – Gus had pneumonia (and asthma, which complicated everything but was otherwise unrelated). Had Gus been a newborn, I have no doubt he would have died from RSV.

There’s no way to know where or how Gus was infected with RSV, but as a parent I learned to be much more vocal about insisting that guest sanitize and also denying contact when necessary.

Guests must play a responsible and proactive part as well by always washing hands, asking permission to hold the baby/child, and staying away if recently sick. Be respectful of the parents wishes and don’t be offended by their attempts to protect their baby.

Here are some great baby etiquette tips from

A few tips to remember when a loved one has a new baby:

  • Call before you visit.
  • Postpone/cancel a visit if you are getting or have been sick or exposed to sickness.
  • Remember that parents know best. Respect their wishes and don’t be offended.
  • Offer to do something to ease their responsibilities in addition to or instead of visiting.

My younger sister delivered her first child 8 weeks early – this is Oliver and he weighed 2 lbs. 12 oz. at birth.

The risks of RSV are much greater for premature babies (Click to enlarge the infographic), so even though Oliver was born over 2 months ago, we have only seen him (and from a distance) a handful of times. It can be difficult to stay away and respect parent’s requests in these kinds of situations, but safeguarding little Oliver’s health is the most important thing!

If you do schedule a visit with a new baby:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Leave toddlers at home.

A few facts about RSV that all parents, caregivers and loved ones should know:

  • Almost every baby will contract RSV by age 2, but only 1/3 of moms say they’ve heard of the virus.
  • Serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, responsible for more than 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 infant deaths each year.
  • RSV occurs in epidemics each fall through spring. The CDC has defined “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
  • There is no treatment for RSV, so it’s important for parents to take preventive steps to help protect their child (e.g., wash hands, toys, bedding frequently; avoid crowds and cigarette smoke).
  • Certain babies are at an increased risk of developing serious RSV infection, so it’s important to speak with a pediatrician to determine if a baby may be at high risk for RSV, and discuss preventive measures.
  • Symptoms of serious RSV infection include: persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails; high fever; extreme fatigue; and difficulty feeding. Parents should contact a medical professional immediately upon signs of these symptoms.

If you want to take extra precautionary measures with your infant and don’t know how to talk to your loved ones about your requests, here’s an open letter I know you’ll find helpful.

Be strong and vocal as a parent and respectful as a guest – protect those babies!


“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.”



1 Vallorie March 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I had my first child 35 years ago, and was counseled by my pediatrician to stay home, and limit visitation for a full month after she was born – a practice I followed for all three of my children. I was told in general terms that it was important to limit the baby’s exposure to “germs,” but the seriousness of RSV makes sense to me now. It is still startling for me to see young moms out shopping, or sitting at Starbucks with teeny little newborns. I suppose the fast pace of our daily lives now makes the thought of staying home for a month seem too confining – but it’s so important for newborn well-being!

2 Jenny March 23, 2012 at 6:17 am

Do you remember the laminated card Amanda hung from her preemie’s carseat telling people to love her from a distance with no touching or something? It was the coolest and was polite. I wish they would just hand those things out as moms left the hospital with their little weak-lunged babes. Thank you for writing the post. I wish people who don’t immunize their children against whooping cough would stay far, far from my babies. That is what scares me more than RSV.

3 Sara R March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

@Jenny – I get so many comments about the little stop sign (ours is made of a durable, rubbery material) warning people to “Wash your hands before you touch mine” and agree every parent should get one at the hospital. We only got one because our baby was in the NICU for a week, but every baby is at risk.

4 Jinii Boren March 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Thanks for writing this and putting it out there. People always are giving me a hard time of being over protective of my babies but I am there to do what is best for them. Again thank you!

5 Kelsey March 26, 2012 at 10:07 am

Jenny, I don’t think I ever saw Amanda’s sign, but that’s a great idea. They really should give them to everyone, even healthy full-term babies. They really do just need to be loved from a distance for the first little while.

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