the eric update – day 460: on the continuum of cautiousness during cold and flu season.

since we’re rapidly entering cold and flu season and considering the fact that i already have a heinous head cold, you might forgive me wondering aloud about the continuum of cautiousness that exists regarding the measures that one might deem reasonable or not to prevent illnesses in former micropreemies ( and since i’m medicated while i’m writing this, you might also forgive me for not being entirely sure if that previous sentence actually makes any sense 🙂 ).

of course, any parent will take whatever reasonable measures to prevent their child from getting sick during cold and flu season, but parents of children born less at less than 28 weeks with birthweights less than 2 pounds ( 900 grams ) can often have a difficult time just deciding what defines reasonableness as they try to balance the desire to avoid over-protection against the increased risks their children face associated with respiratory tract infections; of particular concern are bacterial and viral infections that aggravate the “lower” respiratory tract ( e.g. the lungs, respiratory bronchioles, alveoli etc ), resulting in bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

as a consequence of his extreme prematurity, not only are odin’s lungs physically smaller than children of the same age ( and will remain so until he’s around 8 years of age ), but they’re effectively even smaller still since he’s had a non-trivial amount of damaged tissue as a result of infant respiratory distress syndrome, mild bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and pneumonia; so contracting anything that inflames and irritates his lower respiratory system can have a much more dire impact than one might otherwise suspect.

and while we’re big fans of doing the things that one should do in one’s home to prevent colds flus and infections, including using copious amounts of the ever popular alcohol-based hand sanitizers which do a fantastic job of killing bacteria, we’re still at a bit of a loss about what to do about the viruses that are unaffected by sanitizers and are often the causes of the very respiratory infections that we’re concerned about ( e.g. viral pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia in children ).

which finally brings me to my “real” point. while we’re sure that odin has a grand time playing with one or the both of us each day, we’d both like to see him have more opportunities to engage in semi-structured playtime with kids his own age and we’d rather not wait a full 6 months until the end of cold and flu season to start. so we’re contemplating enrolling him in an age-appropriate gymboree learning program ( or perhaps other similar programs in our area ), but can’t quite figure out how to rationally weigh the risk that daycare & preschools are epicenters of [viral] flu epidemics.

are we being overbearing and overprotective parents if we decide to keep him secluded and sequestered for another winter season, knowing that at the very least we would have the peace of mind that we did all that we could to help prevent the risks associated with developing a lower respiratory infection? or are we being cavalier and irresponsible by deciding that the potential benefits of “social play” outweigh the risk of developing a condition that could lead to further damage to his already handicapped lower respiratory capacity?

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