A side effect of being a preemie is a compromised immune system.
Developmentally, preemies are expected to catch up by age 2, but I have yet to receive an age at which their immune systems will catch up. From what I’ve read, increased susceptibility to illness and infection is a lifelong health risk for babies who entered the world before their bodies had finished developing.
This is one of the reasons our family has taken such a conscientious stance on the Tagalongs’ health. We went into “isoloation” during cold, flu, and RSV season that first year, taking the Tagalongs out of the house for only doctor’s appointments and asking visitors to stay home if they had so much as a sniffle. We received Synagis to protect against RSV when the Tagalongs were infants. We asked anyone who came into physical contact with the Tagalongs that first year to get the flu shot and DTaP—per doctor’s recommendation (almost “order”). We exercise caution and good handwashing when around friends and family who are or have been sick—and try to do the same when we’re sick. We try to watch our intake of processed foods, eat a larger variety of fruits and veggies, and take a multivitamin and immune booster during “sick season” (NOTE: affiliate links). And we get the flu shot every year.
We’ve been fortunate to have only “minor” illnesses, but even those can take their toll. Last sick season, we had two cases of croup and one case of walking pneumonia—at the same time. Let me tell you that it was no walk in the park.
Which is why I’m sharing this post from the blog An Early Start. This website chronicles the experience of Jaxson, a micropreemie born at 23w3d. The post gives the background to a letter that his parents, Steve and Andrea Mullenmeister, wrote to family and friends of preemies explaining why going into isolation is so important for these fragile babies. Facebook memories shows that I shared the post at the beginning of the Tagalongs’ very first cold, flu, and RSV season. I found the article informative and well written, and I especially enjoyed that the Mullenmeisters made the post printable so preemie parents could simply hand it out to family, friends, and other potential visitors.
My post isn’t meant to open a debate about the flu shot, vaccines, or “building your child’s immune system.” I’m not here to tell you what to do or get on your case about taking or not taking action. But I am asking you to consider more than what’s best for just your family this sick season. And I am asking you to extend understanding to those who may choose to not keep a playdate or—as we’ve done—kindly ask that you not attend a family function at their house due to your illness. We wish you well this sick season and always.