Mom Asks Everyone To Resist Kissable Babies After 8-Month-Old Catches RSV at Day Care

AJ DiGrigorio
Facebook/Ariana DiGrigorio

Although it may be tempting -- and even natural -- to give a newborn a tiny peck on the cheek, the truth is that practice can also lead to some serious health risks. Ariana DiGrigorio knows the reality of this all too well. The New Jersey mom says that her son Antonio (AJ for short) contracted Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, from his day care facility in December 2018. After learning more about it, she was shocked to find that many newborns infected with the virus get it the same way -- through well-intentioned kisses from visitors. Now, she's made it her mission to educate other parents on the dangers that kisses can pose to infants.

  • AJ was only 8 months old when he contracted the serious respiratory illness.

    Ariana DiGrigorio

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is a common respiratory infection in adults that causes mild, flu-like symptoms, but it can be dangerous for infants and older adults. 

    In fact, according to the CDC website: "RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States."

    DiGrigorio, who has a background in medicine, knew right away that her son's breathing was atypical. 

    "It was the way that he was breathing -- compensating to breathing using accessory muscles," she tells CafeMom. "Just watching him [I knew] something wasn’t right."

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  • DiGrigorio rushed her son to the ER, where at first, he tested negative for RSV.

    AJ DiGrigorio
    Ariana DiGrigorio

    Doctors told DiGrigorio that AJ simply had a case of the flu, and sent them on their way. But his flu-like symptoms continued for two more months. 

    "The runny nose, the cough, and the congestion all seemed to be getting worse," DiGregorio tells CafeMom. And on a second trip to the ER in February 2019, DiGrigorio finally learned the heartbreaking truth: AJ had tested positive for RSV.

    Doctors believe he caught the infection from a day care facility he was enrolled in at the time, and although it began as the flu, it developed into RSV over time.

  • AJ would go on to spend the next six days in the pediatric ICU.

    AJ DiGrigorio
    Ariana DiGrigorio

    According to his mom, it's actually pretty unusual for an 8-month-old to contact RSV -- most of the horror stories she had heard happened to newborns.

    "I’ve only seen stories about infants (5 weeks to 8 weeks old) who were hospitalized with this virus," she tells CafeMom. But her son was the unfortunate exception.

  • Today, AJ is mostly recovered from his illness, but his mom says he still has health issues related to it.

    AJ developed asthma from his RSV and sees a pulmonologist every four months, DiGregorio says. 

    The traumatic experience of his illness has also stuck with his mom in a big way. On August 23, she wrote an urgent Facebook plea that shared her story and reminded others of how even a harmless kiss can pose risks.

    Believe it or not, "you are contagious up to 24 hours before you start showing symptoms," DiGregorio wrote. 

    "Please keep your mouths/breaths away from a baby's face, hands, and feet," she continued. "It's super awkward as a parent to have to tell someone (especially a family member or friend) to step away from your baby. It's also super difficult to stop someone from kissing your child after they're already going in for the kiss."

  • "Don't be the reason a baby is hospitalized (or dead) because the baby was 'just so cute I had to kiss her!'" DiGregorio added.

    "If you're sick, please stay home," she wrote. "What might be a 'sinus infection' or 'allergies' to you, could translate to a life-threatening illness for a baby."

    DiGregorio says she ultimately decided to share her story online because she just had her second baby in June, and "I told myself that I would not let the same [thing] happen to the baby."

    The entire experience was so heartbreaking that DiGregorio says she decided her second child will not be attending day care at all, and AJ has been out of it for some time.

    In the end, she hopes her story will encourage all people -- even well-meaning family members -- to keep their germs to themselves.

    "Don't be selfish. Don't kiss babies. It's not worth it," she wrote.

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