Thrive by IU Health

December 22, 2023

NICU nurse shares warning of RSV in infants

IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

NICU nurse shares warning of RSV in infants

Darrah Starr is a nurse on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at IU Health Ball, with two little ones of her own. A few weeks ago, her preschooler came home coughing and sneezing. Like any normal family the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) transferred through the house getting everyone sick. The family easily recovered, except for their infant, Jett.

He started with some nasal congestion that turned into a cough. He soon was struggling to breathe while sleeping. When Starr sent a video of him to her friends in pediatrics, they told her to go to the Emergency Room.

In the video, Jett had signs of a retraction where the muscles around the neck and ribs overextend, and an outline of the bones appeared. He was taking extremely deep breathes, which is a sign that respiratory support is needed.

When she showed up to the IU Health Ball Emergency Department, they gave him an RSV swab and the test confirmed he had it, so she taken to the pediatric floor. The average person can live through the cold and be fine after a few days, but for infants it can be extremely serious. The secretions from the virus often become too large for their little bodies to handle.

The pediatrician on call, Sadia Abbasi, MD, and the nurses developed his care plan. Jett was given a high flow cannula that provided oxygen through a tube to his lungs. For extra hydration, they also gave him an IV.

Over the exhausting four days in the hospital, Starr didn’t leave her son’s side. Her husband came to visit but spent most of the time taking care of their other child. She spent time with the Hospital Chaplin receiving emotional support.

“I really expected it to be a short stay like 24 hours not 100,” she says. Typically, the virus peaks between days five and seven, and Jett wasn’t released until his symptoms declined.

“I had to learn to be patient and it was going to take time for him to get better,” she says. Eventually, Jett recovered, and the family returned home.

From the experience, Starr learned how important it is to keep good hygiene prevent sickness in infants. With holiday and family reunions coming up, she is making a hard rule that everyone must wash their hands before picking up Jett, and if anyone is feeling even a little sick, they need to stay home and video call into the get togethers.

If you or someone you know has an infant, you can incorporate this practice to keep them safe. Refrain from kissing their foreheads, always wash your hands before touching them, and keep distance if you are feeling ill. It can be hard to not give them a hug at first, but it is safer for them in the long run. For more questions and information about RSV in children, reach out to your primary care provider.

Related Services

Connected Care

Primary care designed exclusively for adults with Medicare who are managing one or more chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, COPD, dementia, obesity and more.

Featured Providers

View More Providers