How Proper Baby Etiquette Helps Prevents RSV

by - 3/30/2012 02:43:00 PM

When my son was just a few weeks old I took him for his first family visit. My uncle was excited to see his first great nephew and couldn't wait to hold him.

Always hold baby with blanket

Note: I wrote this while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate. Views expressed are always 100% my own.

 But before I would let my son out the protective wrapping of my arms, my uncle (and anyone else who wanted to touch my son) needed to first wash their hands thoroughly, rub their hands till it was dry and warm AND then get sit down with a blanket to hold my son in. Yes really!

Since my family comes from a Caribbean culture, it's a custom to only hold a baby with a blanket. No one can hold a baby with just their hands the first few weeks. Seems like a strange custom? Maybe a bit extreme if someone had already washed their hands?

Maybe not when you understand that all newborns are vulnerable during the first few months of life. Especially babies born prematurely or with certain chronic conditions are very susceptible to infection. So babies need extra protection while their immune systems develop.

One of the biggest threats to new babies is a very common virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This virus is of special concern because it’s extremely common and spreads very easily. RSV can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops, toys, bedding) for several hours and is often spread through touching, hugging and kissing. Because of this, almost 100% of children contract RSV by their second birthday. Scary!

So how can you protect your baby from illness like RSV? By encouraging proper baby etiquette from family and friends coming to visit baby. For me it was encouraging family to use the extra layer of the added blanket but you can also encourage your friends and families to
  • Call before they visit. New parents need time to set up a routine and bond. By giving you time to do so before they visit, friends and family are respecting the your new family.
  • When friends and family visit encourage them to wash their hands frequently—upon entering the home and especially prior to holding the baby.
  • Leave toddlers at home, especially during the winter months. Young children, especially if they attend day care or preschool, often carry germs and viruses, like RSV, that are easily spread.
  • Postpone a visit if they feel that they may be getting sick, have recently been ill or exposed to illness.
  • Offer to do something to ease the parents responsibilities as they spend time as a family, such as laundry, cooking or dishes. Sleep-deprived moms and dads will appreciate the help!
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.

To learn more about RSV, visit

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  1. I think my son was wrapped up in a blanket for a whole month! I was leary of too many hands on him so early. People thought I was crazy :)

  2. I'm also from the islands and I know exactly what you're saying. It's imbedded in our culture and I never really give it a second thought. My husband is American and his family think I'm a bit overboard with my cleanliness. My daughter was always wrapped in a blanket and everyone had to wash their hands. The funny thing is I initially didn't think about the culture aspect until she was born.