After her baby contracted respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and was hospitalized, Ariana DiGrigorio of Keansburg, New Jersey, took to social media to warn other parents about the dangerous infection.
RSV is a common virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. Most children have been infected with the virus by age 2, and while it usually manifests in mild symptoms in older children and adults, it can be much more serious and even fatal for infants, premature babies, older adults and those with heart and lung conditions or weakened immune systems.
DiGrigorio’s 8-month-old son, Antonio, was diagnosed with RSV in February 2019; he contracted it at his daycare center. He spent six days in the ICU, where he received breathing treatments and was on a respiratory ventilator. Now 1, he continues to receive breathing treatments every four hours and sees a respiratory physician every few months.
On Aug. 23, the mom of four used her family’s ordeal as a reminder to people to be careful about spreading germs to vulnerable babies and children:
“RSV season. Adults – you are contagious up to 24 hours before you start showing symptoms!” she wrote alongside a photo of her son in the hospital. “Please keep your mouths/breaths away from a baby’s face, hands and feet. Don’t be the reason a baby is hospitalized (or dead) because the baby was ‘just so cute I had to kiss her!'”
She went on to explain that while it may be difficult to tell loved ones or even strangers to keep their distance from your child, their health is worth it.
“Also, if you’re sick, please stay home,” she advised. “What might be a ‘sinus infection or ‘allergies’ to you, could translate to a life-threatening illness for a baby.”
DiGrigorio’s post certainly resonated, and it has now been shared more than 20,000 times.
“RSV is most common from December to March,” Dr. Saumya Bhutani, a resident in ABC News’ Medical Unit, told “Good Morning America”. “It is very contagious and kids can get it from ‘respiratory droplets,’ basically meaning from the droplets of someone’s cough or sneeze, whether those droplets directly get into a child’s mouth, eyes or nose or the child touches surfaces like tables, cribs or toys that have those droplets on them.”
RSV can also be spread by direct contact and can live for hours on hard objects like countertops and toys. People with RSV can be contagious for 3-8 days, but babies and those with compromised immune systems can keep spreading the virus for up to four weeks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are several steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV, including frequent hand washing, keeping your hands from your face, avoiding contact with sick people, covering your coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and staying home when you’re sick.
If you’re experiencing symptoms that may be due to RSV, you should take special care to stay away from the most vulnerable populations, including babies and older adults.
Symptoms of RSV typically mimic that of the common cold and include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. In infants, you may only notice irritability, lethargy and breathing problems. RSV can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia and is the most common cause of these serious infections in children under one year of age.
If symptoms are mild, you do not need to see a doctor, and most people feel better in a week or two. If your child is experiencing breathing difficulties (you can tell this if you can see their belly muscles and skin pull back with each breath) or rapid breathing, or if you see fever, a blue tinge to the skin, and symptoms of dehydration, you should seek medical care.
This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for other great tips and ideas to make the most out of life.