Understanding RSV and Other Common Baby Illnesses

Babies can get sick a lot during their first year of life. What are the most common illnesses to watch out for? How can you treat them at home? And what are signs that you should seek medical attention?

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Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:10
One of the hardest things about being a mom is seeing your kids get sick, especially when they're way too little to tell you how they feel. Today on our show, we are going to be discussing common illnesses that you may navigate in your baby's first year of life to arm you with the information and resources that you need to help you survive this cold and flu season. This is Newbies.

Natalie Gross 0:32
Welcome to Newbies. Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a three year old boy and a brand new baby girl. We've got a great show today talking about common baby illnesses. Not the most fun topic of course, but a discussion that I hope will be helpful to you. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website at newmommymedia.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter which keeps you updated on all the episodes we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app. And if you are looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then you can check out our membership club called Mighty Moms. And that's where we chat more about the topics that we discuss here on the show. And it's an easy way to learn about our recording so that you can join us live. We have moms Lydia and Kaely joining us today. Welcome to the show mama's and as we get started here, tell us a little bit about you where you're located and a little bit about your family.

Lydia Eldridge 2:01
My name is Lydia Eldridge. I am currently living in Oklahoma. I have six kiddos ranging from ages 12 all the way down to six months. Yeah, and I have a wonderful husband.

Natalie Gross 2:18
That's always important. Kaely, what about you?

Kaely Harrod 2:23
I am in the DC area and mom of three. So my oldest is 12. My second is 11. And my third is nine. So pretty darn close in age.

Natalie Gross 2:34
Yeah. Well, what have been your experiences with sick babies and kiddos? I know we were talking before we pressed record that, you know, kind of all of us are dealing with something. So take us back to those baby days and what you dealt with.

Kaely Harrod 2:49
So when you reached out, Natalie, I immediately was like, oh, man, all the respiratory stuff is terrifying with little people. Yeah, when our kids were little, they were so close in age that they always all got everything they got. So we would have like the most extended periods of illness. And we went through a season of having RSV and croup back to back. And I feel like as a mom, like the let the like hyper vigilance of watching your child's chest and nose flares, and things that are like, symptoms of struggling breathing is so stressful on top of just dealing with sick kids, you know, so that's, we've dealt with lots of things, but that's like some of the illness that we've had.

Lydia Eldridge 3:35
Yeah, same with us. Our story, you know, a little bit different, in that four of our children were premature. And so, you know, when you have premature kiddos, their tendency towards respiratory illness is a lot higher. But with each kid, it's different, though. Thankfully, two of them, it didn't, you know, their tendency towards respiratory illness is not that great, but our two youngest is and so our three year old right now, she would, I would say is the most susceptible. And for her, you know, and I know it's really scary hearing me say this, but you know, for her, if she got sick at all, she would start out with like a cold and then all of a sudden it would be like, overnight, she would be in an extreme bout of RSV, and then she has had to be flown to Children's Hospital multiple times, you know, but now we're learning with her. You know, it's possible that she's got reactive airway disease, which, which would explain why she plummets so fast and so hard, you know, so, with premature children, it just feels like it feels like you're on your toes even more. But I will say, learning the cues like learning what it look sight when your child is struggling to breathe, like listening for the breathing sounds, the cost and, and also I highly recommend having some sort of pulse ox to be able to check their oxygen and stuff, you know, that has helped us so much. But yes, we have been through RSV croup, you name it, we have dealt with it. Our oldest son, it felt like he was going through every rash under the sun. And we were just like, What in the world? I mean, so he's had his foot and mouth he's had fifth's disease. He's had it. I mean, insane. It was like, oh, what rash are we dealing with today? So definitely, you know, we've had our experience with everything it has felt like but when you will have six kids, that kind of goes with the territory.

Natalie Gross 5:49
No kidding. Oh, I'm sorry, to both of you. My son when he was a baby had RSV. And we just went through it with my daughter who is not even three months old yet. And it was so scary. We were like borderline having to get admitted, but the hospital was full. So that was a crazy thing we're dealing with. And now we're still kind of dealing with some long term effects of that. And we'll get more into all of those, you know, details about the sickness is in our second segment with our pediatrician here today. But let's just kind of talk give some tips for parents listening, Kaely and Lydia since you both have multiple kids, like, how do you keep the baby or you know, one of them healthy? With so many toddler and kid germs in the house? Do you have any strategies for managing that?

Kaely Harrod 6:35
I wish there were easy strategies. Part of I mean, as a mom of now slightly older kids, they get sick far less often because they're just less gross. Don't sneeze and cough on everything in the house. I remember the projectile sneezing that was like, Okay, we all just got sprayed with that virus. Yeah, some of the things that we would do when our kids were really, really little, especially like our youngest was a preemie. And so Lydia, like what you're talking about, very, very much resonates. I remember telling people like if anyone in your house is sick, you can't come over. And one friend that has six kids was like, we're gonna be there next year, sometime, like everyone, like there's, you know, but we would do a lot of baby carrying. And so like baby wearing, like, lots of wraps and carriers and things like that, because I found the closer the baby was to me, and the more like, someone had to get up in my face to get in the baby's face. It deterred that a bit. And so that was a huge help. When we were going somewhere that we knew we didn't want the baby passed around, or we didn't want them in people's faces or whatever. And then we did a ton of like, treating the whole family. So like, if we're doing soup or honey or you know, tea, or whatever it was, we're like, you don't have it yet. But you're getting it to obviously not with antibiotics and things like that. But like with any kind of immune boosting thing we're like, we'll just do everyone at once. So those are some of our strategies, they did not keep everyone from getting sick all the time. But I absolutely agree with Lydia that having a pulse ox is so helpful for reassurance and also knowing the signs of like wheezing and respiratory distress, because that gives you some reassurance to if you know what to look for, if you're not seeing it. And also kind of tells you when it's time to go if you need to have urgent care or ER involved.

Natalie Gross 8:39
Yeah, great ideas.

Lydia Eldridge 8:41
I was gonna say I like literally everything Kaylee just said that was like, yep, yep. And for our family, you know, just basic handwashing, just making sure like, you know, just kind of the things that you're just like, Well, yeah, but, you know, if you're more proactive about it, you know, just it we're, we're pretty religious on our kids, like, Did you wash your hands? You know, we also make sure they take their vitamins every day, that same thing, if like, one person is sick, you know, we kind of treat everybody you know, like, everybody takes all the proactive does the proactive stuff to just to kind of keep it from making its cycle because, I mean, when you have such a big family, it's like once one person goes down, everybody's events are gonna go down unless we are proactive. But yeah, the whole babywearing thing and everything like I do that too. So yeah, everything can't be said like, Yeah, that.

Natalie Gross 9:41
Well, great. Thank you so much, moms for sharing and when we come back, we will be meeting our expert mom and pediatrician Dr. Jalon Burton, stay with us.

Natalie Gross 9:57
Today on Newbies, we're talking about common illnesses that babies get in their first year of life. And our expert guest today is Dr. Jalon Burton, or Dr. J for short. She is a pediatrician, wife and mother of three based in Washington DC. She has over a decade of experience in well and sick child care, complex care, children with special needs public health, youth development and managed care. And her practice is called Healthy Home pediatrics. Dr. J, welcome to Newbies and thank you so much for joining us.

Jalan Burton 10:25
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited. Yeah.

Natalie Gross 10:29
So tell us you know, we've already kind of named some illnesses as we've been talking, but what are like the three to five most common illnesses that parents of infants need to be aware of?

Jalan Burton 10:39
Yeah, definitely. So I really like to group illnesses and categories based on the symptoms that parents will see. And then I also think of the red flags that they should watch out for at home. So first are colds. You know, we're talking about RSV. I think all of the guests on here all of our kids have stuffy noses. Some of us have stuffy noses. So cold are the first ones, runny noses, coughs, goopy eyes, like a lot of mucus from the eye we've been seeing this season, and fevers and the fevers have been really, really high. Since the pandemic started. I'm talking like 103, 104.5, I've seen some 104.7. And these are just in children with the common cold. So with colds, the red flags that you really want to watch out for are difficulty breathing, which some of our you know guests have talked about, like it's really scary when you see your kid struggling to breathe, gasping to breathe, you see their ribs, pushing in right above their clavicle, you see that pushing in, if they're not drinking, if they have signs of dehydration, so not their lips. But when you look in their mouth, if their mouth looks really dry, turning blue or purple is scary, and then rapid breathing. So first are cold. The next category I think of our rashes, which we also have talked about, and Foot and Mouth Disease, very common. These can cause redness, bumps, blisters, and a lot of skin breakdown. The red flags that I think of with this are like changes in levels of consciousness. So your kid is not acting like him or herself. They are not waking up when you try to get them up to go to the bathroom or to change their diaper. If there's a rapid progression of the rash, some rashes that are life threatening, they start with little and then they are all over the body. And then purple skin. So the pediatricians Arius rash that many of us have not seen, thank goodness is meningitis. And so it causes red rashes, red bumps that quickly turn into like purple really angry looking. And then the last thing is GI and stomach bugs. I hate these I'm not good with vomit, because vomiting and diarrhea. They are really nice thing. And the red flags are if kids cannot drink 15 milliliters, so that's half an ounce, a few times an hour, because that means that they're gonna get dehydrated pretty quickly. And then if there's blood in the vomit or the poop, so those three categories cold rashes, GI and stomach bugs, and then watching out for red flags are kind of how I group it for myself, my patients and my family.

Natalie Gross 13:04
Okay, that's really helpful. Well, RSV is in the news so much right now. And like I said, we've already talked about that my kids have had it. What is it exactly? How does it spread? And why is it potentially so dangerous?

Jalan Burton 13:17
Yeah, so RSV, I know it is scary because it is in the news, but it is one of the most common causes of the common cold, right, like half of the adults that have cold we may have RSV. In general, doctors don't check to see what viruses cause colds because it doesn't change our management. We're going to treat it all the same, but based on the data that we have from children and adults who are tested in hospitals, urgent cares and doctor's office. Most colds are caused by Rhino virus, adenovirus and RSV. And just I kind of don't like abbreviation sometimes but this one is a hard one to say. So it's respiratory syncytial virus, but we just put it as RSV for short.

Natalie Gross 13:57
Okay, got it. How does it spread?

Jalan Burton 14:00
Droplets, sneezing, we talked about projectile sneezes, kids are really snotty, there's mucus coming out of their nose, there's mucus coming out of their eyes, they're sneezing, they're coughing all over the place. So it's those droplets and it just it just becomes airborne. Okay, and touching and touching to which I know several guests have talked about the importance of hand washing and just getting kids even little, you know, two year olds to be really good about hand washing with soap and water. And I do prefer soap and water. Of course, when soap and water is not available. Hand sanitizer is really good. But like when I was talking about those three kind of categories of illness, the one illness that is not helped by just hand sanitizer or GI and stomach bugs, you really do have to just like wash those particles away.

Natalie Gross 14:43
Okay, and when you say touching, you're talking like touching each other or touching surfaces?

Jalan Burton 14:48
I'm talking about. I mean, my kids go to both of them go to daycare and they are always in each other's space like we walk in in the morning and drop them off and there's a kid at the door with a snotty nose and my daughter runs up and hugs her and I'm just like, oh, There's the snot. So touching is like our kids being in our face and kissing us and putting their snot in their lips in their saliva on us.

Natalie Gross 15:08
I saw a meme the other day that was like, I always thought before I had kids that I had a good immune system. And turns out, I was just good at not hanging out with people who sneeze in my face.

Jalan Burton 15:17
So girls, they literally get me all the time. During this time of year, I wear gloves for every single exam that I do at people's houses. I wear a big yellow gown i warn kids before I come Dr. J's wearing her big old gown today. And I do have some face shields for when I'm doing like COVID testing and stuff. Because I mean, you just get sneezed on and coughed on a lot.

Natalie Gross 15:38
So whether it's RSV, croup, etc. How do you know when to take your baby into the doctor versus, you know, just monitoring their symptoms at home?

Jalan Burton 15:47
Yeah, this depends. You know, as a pediatrician, I get I must admit, Mama Kaely and Mama Lydia mentioned having their pulse ox is it makes me a little nervous as a pediatrician. But I think this depends, and I think parents really know their children. So I'm glad when parents are tapping into knowing what their kid looks like when they're struggling. Because that makes it helpful for me, everyone should have a really good relationship with their doctor, and there should be a way to get them on a telephone or telemedicine visit pretty quickly. I mean, this pandemic has made it so that I mean doctors offices who weren't doing telemedicine before, do my practice, we've always had telephone and telemedicine visits, I have my patients let me know at the first sign of illness. And then I asked about the symptoms so that I can determine how worried I am based upon a particular patient's age, their medical history, which, you know, both of the guests alluded to my kiddos who have reactive airway disease or asthma, they are the ones that like right after daycare drop off, I am heading to their parents house with my medical grade postdocs to check them out. Because I know that they get really sick really fast. And so we watch the symptoms. And we also watch what's in the community. You know, Kaely and Natalie and I are in DC. And you know, DC, Maryland and Virginia what we're seeing it's it happens, right like in all in this kind of bigger community. It is not possible, unfortunately for doctors to see every patient with cold symptoms. But family should have a way to have worries addressed right at least by phone. And then a really good follow up plan in case the symptoms worsen or go too long. Earlier, I mentioned some red flags of difficulty breathing, not drinking signs of dehydration, turning blue turning purple rapid breathing that everyone should be aware of. And of course, we you know, we hope that doesn't get to that point. But when you need to, you know, you you need to call 911. Our two children both had RSV, that became pneumonia in October. And even as a pediatrician, the scariest thing I've had to do is to call like 911, you know, to call for urgent care emergency care for my daughter. And so we actually ended up having to go by ambulance to our local children's hospital. I knew the hospital was overwhelmed. And so I asked to be routed to a different one, but they couldn't. So I mean, all around the country that hospitals are overwhelmed. I know and a lot of our mommy groups locally focused on like, which hospital should I go to? They're all bad right now. We literally sat in the emergency room for 22 hours but admitted to the hospital, right? Like I'm putting that in quotes, air quotes, nobody can see that. But you you are admitted to the hospital, but you're boarded in the emergency room when the hospitals are overloaded. And that has been the case for the last few months.

Natalie Gross 18:30
Wow. Well, if your child has RSV, for example, and it's not bad enough to get admitted to the hospital, like my daughter had the retractions that, you know, they always say to look out for, but it wasn't like quite the level of needing to get sent to the hospital. What are some natural at home ways that you can help your baby recover?

Jalan Burton 18:48
I always remind parents to think about what they like when they're sick, right? Like what are the things you want something more than to drink, you want to rest you don't want folks messing with you. You want to be taken care of and you want to cuddle maybe that's just me. I like cuddling with my husband and my kids. But kids like to be cuddled when we adults are sick with a stuffy nose. We blow it a lot. But you know, babies, infants and toddlers and even some older kids really struggle with the coordination of blowing so for them, it's really best to use nasal saline or breast milk. Breast milk is my preferred option a little squirt in the nose. Let's squirt in the eyes to loosen the mucus and then use a really good aspirator like the nose Frieda or the baby comfy nose. I don't work for either of those companies. But I have a ton of them here because they are the balm to get that mucus out. I honestly don't like the little green and blue bulb sections that you can buy like at the pharmacy. I don't know very many parents that can make those work enough to like get the suction that you need to really get things out. I also really do recommend steam treatments like sitting on the bathroom floor. Have that shower running. This really helps a lot I know coop was mentioned several times the cough of coop is like trademark parents and be audio recordings all the time. I hear that cough um Please go in the bathroom right now get that shower running. So to take it up a notch, you can close the spout in the tub and put a few drops of eucalyptus or lavender essential oils in the tub, so that the steam will have an aromatherapy effect. So it's really supporting kids, it's really managing their symptoms, um, you know, checking in with your pediatrician to make sure you have the right dose for Tylenol, acetaminophen, which is the you know, generic name, and then ibuprofen or Motrin, if your child is above six months old, and good old honey has been shown in randomized control studies to work better than cough medicine. I do not recommend cough medicine for any child under the age of seven because there have been some overdoses. And some of these products even though they say natural and organic, they've got stuff I can't pronounce, they've got stuff, I look up and I'm like, Oh, I don't actually want your kid to be taken that so good old, raw, organic honey, my son and I make packets like sick packets for our patients. And literally it has Kleenex in it, it has a packet of like crystallized lemon, which it didn't know they had until recently. raw organic honey, and then a lot of tea. So love chamomile tea and love peppermint tea. And that's literally what I just tell parents like this is what this is what we got, you know, this is what we this is what we have that safe for kids. And that's for a little bit of the older kids, right? Yeah, honey is only for babies that are over the age of one. And then like I mentioned that Ibuprofen is only for folks that are over the age of six months old.

Natalie Gross 21:23
So aside from never leaving the house, right, which is kind of impractical, especially when you got six kids, three kids, I just have two but we have so much that we need to get done, especially this time of the year. We've talked about hand washing, of course. But are there any preventative measures that parents can take to keep their babies healthy year round, but especially now, the holidays are coming up?

Jalan Burton 21:45
Yeah, you know, I really do want to stress that like kids are going to get 12 viral illnesses a year. Like that's just the way that it goes. It doesn't mean that anything is wrong with their immune systems. It is just what they do. So that means pretty much every month, kids can get a viral illness. One of the things that I mentioned the cold, the rashes, the GI bugs, they will get sick for all children, making sure they have enough sleep, that they're eating wholesome, minimally processed foods, that they have a lot of time to play outdoors and just a lot of play in general, is really important. You know, for children under one, giving them as much breast milk as you can for as long as you can for the immune boosting properties is really helpful for children who are on formula artificial milks. They can get probiotics, which are really helpful for their systems. Systems. Yeah. And then for children who are over six months old, I do recommend the flu vaccine and I've just done a ton of them this year. So those are the ways that I really recommend that family stay as safe as they can.

Natalie Gross 22:41
Okay, well, we are going to take another quick break. And when we come back, we will keep hearing from Dr. J and our moms.

Natalie Gross 22:53
Okay, moms, any thoughts on what we've just heard from Dr. J? Have you tried any of those, you know, remedies or methods at home?

Kaely Harrod 23:01
Yes. The warm shower as Dr. J was talking, I was like, oh, yeah, the warm showers. We did have a hospital run also with with croup, when we when our baby was little, and that I appreciate Dr. J, you like giving that guidance? Because I think as parents, it can be so easy to be like surely this isn't an emergency surely, surely I'm overreacting to this right. And so I think that's really important to know, like, clearly know, the signs of being like, oh my gosh, my baby needs help more than I can give them, you know, so as terrifying as that is.

Natalie Gross 23:37
Mm hmm. Yeah, that was good advice. Lydia, anything?

Lydia Eldridge 23:40
I resonated with all of those, all of those things. And, and I remember when, when one of our babies had croup. It was during the wintertime. So we were advised to just step outside in the cold for a little bit and, and that definitely seemed to help as well. I wanted to ask to Dr. J, with our youngest being our earliest preemie he was three months early, as far as like treatment for him. Like do we go based off like the normal immune because you said like, you know, don't give honey to, you know, babies younger than one and like Tylenol for babies under six months? I think you said so do do I follow the same protocol. Do I do his age adjustment?

Jalan Burton 24:29
This is a really important topic. Right? So premature babies pediatricians adjust their age because their bodies just aren't as developed even though they have the calendar age. Right. So a three month old that was born a month early when they're three months they're going to show me things that a two month old would show me so yes and no, I would adjust thing. First of all, you are his expert, right? Like you are learning what he is doing. You will see how quickly he gets sick. I would say for any premature babies I start doing Steam showers for the first time that illness, I'd start that you know, nasal suction at the first time that illness, I would just be on top of it. And you may want to just also go ahead and give your pediatrician a heads up. You know, I mentioned earlier, my patients are trained Dr. J wants to know when you're sick, that is just a secure text message in our system. Hey, such and such kiddo is sick. They've got XYZ symptoms, they know what I'm gonna ask about, and they send me an update. I say Okay, later on today, let's hop on a telemedicine visit. So I my goal, what I want for everyone right is to have a responsive pediatrician that can be there for you. And you can let them know what the first sign of illness because it just makes you feel better. You know what I mean? As a mom to know, somebody knows this kid is on day number one of illness or day number two, right? Because we also know like what days it's going to be worse for kids. So days, like three to five tend to be the absolute worst for most babies. And so though those kiddos are the ones that I usually make sure, like if I do a telephone or telemedicine visit one day one, I'm like I see on day three, and the parents are like, Okay, I'll see you on day three, because I know day three, day four, day five is when things are, you know, either kids are going to go down the track of I'm gonna get better and I'm gonna be okay. Or they're gonna go down the track of I need to go to the emergency room, I need to you know, I need somebody to monitor my breathing. So I would just do the nasal suction and the steamy showers with that baby. I would just be more stringent, more aggressive with it.

Natalie Gross 26:28
Dr. J, the days three to five getting worse is that for pretty much everything or the RSV cold type illnesses?

Jalan Burton 26:36
Yeah, it's pretty much for the RSV cold type illnesses. So the rashes you know, the rashes just get worse, and they just you know, over time, and then they'll come and go on the GI and stomach bugs and most of the kiddos get better in like 24 to 48 hours. But gosh, last season, oh my god, we were seeing diarrheal illnesses last for a full week. And that's another thing that didn't mention, during this pandemic. We are just seeing like the timing of all the illnesses is different, right? Like we used to only see like bad colds and stuff during the fall. And then we would see like diarrheal illnesses during like the spring in the summer. We're just seeing the stuff all year round now. So yeah, the colds, the upper respiratory illnesses, right, that's the medical term we use. Those are the ones that day three to five, I tend to see and I'm just going based upon what I have seen in the last six months, because everything is up in the air these days. Over the last six months, the day three to day five has been the timing that is the worst. And so I've trained my staff to like day number one Dr. J wants to telephone and telemedicine visit just put it on parents text kid is sick or happened on so that I can see breathing rate and talk about what to do. And day three to day five and less. They are getting way better. Dr. K is coming to listen to you because um, we've been seeing like a lot more pneumonias, unfortunately and I know I mentioned both of my kiddos had pneumonia and they're sick again. And I'm like, Please universe, please don't get me pneumonia again. I can't I can't do pneumonia again.

Natalie Gross 27:58
Yeah. Well, I will send up some good vibes for your kids. Moms or Dr. J, any last thoughts before we wrap up?

Jalan Burton 28:07
Yeah, I did. I just wanted to say that the stress and strain on families has been unprecedented, right? With kids getting 12 viral illnesses a year with folks working from home, it has been rough. And as a working parent, it's so hard for your child to get sick every month. I completely support paid sick leave for families living living wages for families and parental leaves. My kids are at my parents today. And if they weren't, if they hadn't been at my parents every time they got sick, like I literally wouldn't be able to keep my practice open. So this has been just such a challenging time for families. And I just want to send good vibes to everyone who is managing all these colds and these illnesses because it's been really hard and it's been really stressful for families.

Natalie Gross 28:50
Well thank you so much to you Dr. J for being here and Lydia and Kaely as well. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. Listeners, you can find out more about Dr. J at healthyhomepediatrics.com And be sure to check out new mommymedia.com where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 29:19
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows preggy pals for expecting parents Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, the Boob Group for moms who give breast milk to their babies and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies, your go to source for new moms and new babies.

Disclaimer 29:44
This is a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of new mommy media. Media and shall not be considered facts. Will such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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