After her daughter was admitted to the ICU, Laura Correada-Silva took to the popular image-sharing website Imgur to make a public plea for parents to keep their sick kids home. Her daughter, Chloe, is 3 years old and has asthma, which means the symptoms of certain infections can have more severe consequences than they would in otherwise healthy kids. Over Christmas, she was exposed to RSV after spending time with her cousin and it wasn’t long before she developed a fever.
On Imgur, Correada-Silva explained that her brother knew his daughter was sick but didn’t believe she was contagious when he brought her to their family gathering. Once Chloe was diagnosed with RSV, she was prescribed antibiotics by her pediatrician, but her symptoms grew worse. She was hospitalized and admitted to the intensive care unit because she was struggling to breathe on her own.
Now, Chloe’s mom has reported that she is making improvements and that she hopes Chloe will be home from the hospital soon. That’s great news, but that doesn’t really change that fact that all of this could have been avoided if she hadn’t been exposed to RSV in the first place. That’s why Correada-Silva used Imgur to advocate for more caution when taking your sick kids outside your home.
“Please. If your child has a cold, or a flu, or an upper respiratory infection, please keep them home and take care of them,” she wrote on Imgur. Along with her plea, she included a sobering picture of her 3-year-old daughter connected to a high-flow breathing machine in the ICU.
Since making her public request, she’s faced mixed reactions. Some have her back, agreeing that sick kids belong at home, especially if they could be contagious. Others think she is asking too much, pointing out how hard it is to get time off, especially if you don’t have paid vacation days or you are the sole income-earner in your home.
So, do parents really owe it to other parents to keep their sick kids at home?
Dr. Chris Carroll, leader of the American College of Chest Physicians and CHEST Foundation Board Member, believes that parents should do whatever they can to keep kids with contagious illnesses away from other children until they are well, especially if they may be in the presence of someone with a weakened immune system or an underlying condition.
“Every year, right after Thanksgiving, we see dozens and dozens of babies in my hospital who have been kissed over and over again by grandmas and end up in the ICU with respiratory infections,” Carroll explained. “The CDC reports that 5 to 20 out of 1,000 kids under 6 months who get RSV will end up in the hospital. One in 3 children who are hospitalized for RSV will be admitted to the ICU and 1 in 5 of those kids in the ICU will end up on life support.”
He also explained that children with additional medical conditions are at an elevated risk for being hospitalized after contracting RSV. They are also more likely to be admitted to the ICU or put on life support after being hospitalized. These children include babies and toddlers who were born prematurely and children with weakened immune systems. Both asthma and cystic fibrosis are the most common respiratory conditions that can cause serious complications after contracting a respiratory infection. Children receiving chemotherapy medications are also at a high risk of experiencing dangerous symptoms if they contract an infection.
Carroll also pointed out that some parents may not have the facts straight on when their child is no longer contagious.
“Children with RSV are contagious for a full day before symptoms appear and will remain contagious for five to seven days.”
Let’s face it — for many parents, staying home for an entire week is impossible. Carroll offered a few ideas for preventing the spread of viruses to children with weakened immune systems.
“Keep your child home for the first few days after their symptoms appear. If you can’t stay home longer, teach your child to wash their hands regularly and to sneeze or cough into their elbow,” he suggested. “Since RSV is spread by contact, washing surfaces down frequently can also help prevent spread of the virus.”
The holiday season may be over, but the time to send kids back to school is here. When it comes to protecting the immune deficient children in our lives and in our communities, it seems that mom Laura Correada-Silva has got it right — sick kids are better off kept at home.