As with other systems, the immune system of a premature infant does not work as well as that of a full-term baby or child. This places preemies especially at risk for contracting infections after discharge.
Typically, preemies will receive vaccines according to a particular timetable while they are in the NICU. It's important to ensure that all household members and people who will be in close contact with the baby are up to date on their vaccinations and have received their annual flu shot.
Although many different viruses can infect preemies, they're particularly susceptible to RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, a common viral infection in young kids that can be mistaken for a cold or the flu. Although RSV is not detrimental to adults and older kids, in preemies it can lead to severe illness, breathing problems, or even death. It is also a common cause for re-hospitalization of preemies.
Preemies that meet certain qualifications are eligible to receive a preventive injection to help protect from RSV. Flynn received this medicine, which was given as a series of shots, for his first winter. Between that, and us keeping him at home as much as possible, we did have a successful first flu season with only minor issues and without re-hospitalization. It was extremely difficult, but worth the effort.
With his immunity still a concern, isolation during the late fall through early spring is our goal but is tricky as he grows, especially with many appointments taking place out of the house. We do what we can by staying up to date with vaccines in our household, practicing proper hand-washing techniques, regularly cleaning and disinfecting EVERYTHING, and limiting the people that Flynn comes into close contact with as much as possible.
Preemie parents are conditioned to do whatever it takes to keep their babies healthy and avoid re-hospitalization. So that’s what we do.