Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fills our children’s hospitals every year but this year does seem to be worse. There have been two publications that named the reason for this uptick and change in severity as “immunity debt”…. Using this term on social media quickly became misinformation and my post was flagged for missing context so I am moving the conversation here.
First, what is immunity debt?
“The extraordinary absence of RSV during winter 2020–21 probably resulted in a cohort of young children without natural immunity to RSV, thereby raising the potential for increased RSV incidence, out-of-season activity, and health-service pressures when measures to restrict SARS-CoV-2 transmission were relaxed.” (1)
The absence of RSV and other respiratory illnesses that year and beyond is at least in part due to non-pharmacological interventions. “Widely implemented non-pharmaceutical interventions against SARS-CoV-2—eg, stay-at-home orders, wearing of face coverings, physical distancing, and promotion of improved hygiene, such as handwashing—all have the potential to prevent transmission of other communicable (particularly respiratory) diseases. Enforcement of protracted public health interventions has created quasi or natural experimental conditions in which the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions on other pathogens can be observed at a population level.” (2)
It’s clear to see to any healthcare provider, mother or father, layperson, whoever… respiratory illnesses changed in the winter of 2020 and the next year as well. This year seems to be different as well… this is different than other years before the measures taken in 2020. I have worked as a PICU/Peds ER nurse and urgent care nurse practitioner for the last 12 years combined and can say EVERY year RSV is bad and fills our hospitals, but not having it for 2 years in a row and then expecting there not to be some effect on the immune system? How do these conventional providers not see that? Or is it the media driving the narrative that “immunity debt” isn’t real?
Either way, let’s discuss RSV management:
- This virus affects almost everyone before the age of 2, those most at risk for severe symptoms are usually less than 6 months, although the elderly population does have an increased risk too.
- A child’s initial RSV infection is typically the most severe and the most likely to involve the lower respiratory tract. This is why you are seeing more hospitalizations due to RSV this year because MANY were not exposed due to the last 2 years. Also some people suspect women not being exposed while pregnant (which in a healthy adult usually looks like the common cold) and not being able to pass antibodies onto baby.
- This isn’t a new virus but wasn’t recognized until 1985. Before that and even to this day, many are diagnosed with bronchiolitis.
- Characterized by fatigue, decreased appetite, runny nose and congestion, coughing, wheezing, and fever.
- Symptoms usually last for 3-5 days, at most 7 days, and then improve. This is a VIRAL infection, thus antibiotics are not needed. The biggest concerns are respiratory support and maintaining hydration.
- Hydration: if nursing, NURSE NURSE NURSE. But before you nurse, suction the nose out so they can breathe much easier while nursing and take in more milk. Same goes for bottle feeding, suction before giving bottle. Often, infants are admitted to the hospital with RSV not necessarily for breathing trouble but for dehydration. Can squirt saline drops into nose before suctioning or even breastmilk, but not too much. Just a little bit. Also, don’t OVER-suction. Typically before feeds and naps and maybe once or twice overnight is more than enough. If getting blood, that’s too much and can cause more trauma.
If older than 1, making your own electrolyte drink can be a good thing to keep hydrated. If under 1, try hard to continue nursing or formula in bottle. Sometimes need to cut 1/2 with water to thin in out during acute illness but check with your provider first.
You want to see a wet diaper at least every 4-6 hours, bare minimum every 8 hours. If not, need to increase fluids and if getting worse need to go to the emergency room. May need a bag of IV fluids, it can help a lot!
- Suctioning with the Nose Frida can be a very good way to suction at home. But many parents have also hooked up their Nose Frida to a breast pump to get more suction. Don’t do too much, again… you don’t want to see blood.
- Put a teaspoon of organic dried thyme in a stainless steel mesh ball and then into 8oz hot filtered water. Let the tea brew and cool. Then pour into bath. Thyme offers amazing respiratory support. Alternatively, put thyme in a bowl of water and on the bathroom counter. Turn on the shower and close the door. Sit in the bathroom with child. The steam and thyme are very helpful to open up the lungs.
- Xlear Kids nasal spray is a great cleanser for the nose/sinuses otherwise saline drops are great.
- Onion poultice: chop up an onion and sauté. Once softened, let cool completely. Make a poultice with cheesecloth and hang by bedside, put on feet for 10-15 minutes at a time, or if older, may put on chest.
- Garlic salve for feet and chest. Peel 8 cloves of organic garlic, 1/3 cup organic coconut oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil. Use a food processor or blender to combine the ingredients for 3-4 minutes. Rub on feet first. If tolerated and no irritation, move to back then to chest. Great for coughs and colds.
- Diluted essential oils like frankincense, lavender, KidScents Sniffleease, RC, diluted lemon. Peace and Calming and Copaiba diluted reversed wheezing in my youngest years ago. Diffusing RC, Lemon, Thieves. Diluted oregano on feet.
- Get a pulse oximeter from Amazon. Monitor for low oxygen. You want greater than 94%..at a bare minimum greater than 90%. Pulse oximeters often don’t catch great readings if the person is wiggly, try to catch baby or child when sleeping. You can try on foot or hand. This is the one I use.
- If over 3 months with a fever, I let it ride for a bit. The body is doing a great work! But need to make sure staying hydrated as fever is dehydrating. If under 3 months, need to call primary provider or go to Emergency Room as risk of sepsis is higher in this age group. Read more in-depth in my blog post, "Don't Fear the Fever | Why Fevers Can Be Okay".
- Earthley’s Feel Better Fast if 6 months and over.
- Earthley’s Cough B Gone is 2 years and up.
- Boiron ColdCalm is another great option.
- Kudzu Apple Juice. Kudzu is a vine from Japan, also in the Southeastern US. It is known in Chinese medicine to relieve chills, aches, indigestion, and other cold symptoms. (Info from Aviva Romm, MD book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children)
- 1 cup unfiltered organic apple juice
- 1 teaspoon kudzu root
Heat 1/2 cup of the juice in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Separately, dissolve the kudzu root into the remaining 1/2 cup of cold apple juice. Stir this into the saucepan and continue to stir until it comes to a boil. Reduce the temperature to low and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes more. Cool until drinkable. Drink 1-4 cups daily, start slow.
- If mom is nursing, mom can take Vitamin C and it will transfer through breastmilk. Reduce amount if stools become too loose.
- Reishi mushroom (love this powder from Wild Wholistic or their Mushroom tonic, even just a few drops of the goodness.
- Make a herbal infusion with chamomile, lavender, rose, lemon balm, catnip (especially with fever), thyme. Let cool and pour into bath.
- Cod liver oil. We use Rosita Cod Liver Oil.
Typical recommended dosage, always check with your provider first.
- Children 3 months-12 years 2,500 IU of Vitamin A a few times per week.
- Children 12 years through adults 5,000 IU Vitamin A a few times per week
- Pregnant and nursing women 10,000 IU Vitamin A a few times per week. Check with your provider first.
- Cool mist humidifier can be helpful short term. MAKE SURE no mold in humidifier. Make sure humidity level does not go above 50%, ideally you want humidity to be between 40-48%. Here is the humidifier and humidity meter for the room I would use.
- Homeopathy is one of my go to supports for babies and children. Safe for all ages. Here is a cough flow chart from a wonderful homeopath that I found quite helpful. Here is the link to the post with more information about each remedy and a link to her post about how to give homeopathy to babies.
Also, homeopathy really is a wonderful resource. Every family would benefit from knowing how to prescribe homeopathy in the home so you know which remedy to use for each situation. Jennie has a wonderful Intro to Homeopathy course that I took a while ago and have used the information so much. It is so helpful! She also has a study group launching that will feature live Q&As and prerecorded lectures so you can listen any time! Here is a link just for the intro course and here is the link for the intro course and study group.
Here is a list of my favorite loose, organic herbs.
Educate yourself. Empower yourself. And equip yourself with tools in your toolkit! We've been taught to be scared of using natural ways to support our body through illness. It's time to unlearn that and feel confident in helping our families in their journey to wellness. We have to start somewhere on our journey to wellness - might as well start HERE and NOW.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. These things are supportive in nature. This is not meant to be medical advice, this is meant to be educational. Please speak to your healthcare provider before changing anything in your healthcare routine.