Caregivers of premature infants infected with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, experience high levels of stress. Research published in Clinical Pediatrics showed that this stress still affected many caregivers 1 month after their child was discharged.
“RSV is a leading cause of hospitalization in young infants,” study researcher Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics and molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “RSV hospitalizations lead to significant family emotional distress, family disruption, missed work and financial stability concerns that persist for at least 1 month after leaving the hospital.”
In a secondary analysis of the SENTINEL1 study, which included data from 43 U.S. hospitals, Pannaraj and colleagues assessed the impact of RSV-confirmed hospitalizations on caregivers of high-risk preterm infants.
A subset of caregivers of 212 infants hospitalized with RSV reported their own stress levels and their perception of their infant’s stress starting at hospital discharge and through 1 month after discharge. The infants had not been given RSV prophylaxis.
“Better prevention strategies are needed to decrease RSV infection in all infants,” Pannaraj noted. “Until an RSV vaccine is available, high-risk preterm infants should receive RSV prophylaxis.”
At hospital discharge, the mean stress level of caregivers over the past 7 days was 5.8 on a scale of 1 to 7 — 7 being “very stressful.” The perceived stress level of their infant reached a mean score of 5.5.
Although scores improved through 1 month after discharge, stress was still present for both, with caregivers reporting a mean score 2.4 for themselves and 2.1 for their infants.
A significant proportion of caregivers — 91% of mothers and 81% of fathers — also reported an overall loss of work productivity. These numbers eventually improved as well, but productivity still remained impaired 1 month after discharge (31% and 18%, respectively).
“Physicians need to be aware that RSV-related hospitalizations and complications impact the infants and cause family stress and hardship during and after hospitalization,” Pannaraj said. “Prevention is key.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: Pannaraj reports receiving personal compensation for research support from AstraZeneca/MedImmune during the conduct of the study and research support from Pfizer. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.