December 17, 2022


As a pediatric hospitalist, I care for infants and children hospitalized with viruses every day. But I never thought that my daughter, Stella, would end up as a patient where I work.

It all started with a cough and a runny nose. But as time progressed, she developed a very significant cough—so severe it caused her to throw up. I brought her to the emergency room (ER) due to my concern that she might be dehydrated. When we arrived, a respiratory viral panel was performed and confirmed that Stella had RSV. A chest x-ray and physical exam confirmed that she also had one potential complication of RSV—bacterial pneumonia. She was admitted to the hospital for 2 days to receive IV fluids for dehydration and antibiotics to treat pneumonia. After coming home from the hospital, Stella still had a cough but quickly returned to her normal, energetic self.

Being both a healthcare professional and a mom, I feel strongly about helping to educate other parents and sharing what happened to Stella is no different.

While RSV can be managed at home, it is important for parents to recognize signs of respiratory distress (breathing rapidly, retractions, etc.) and signs of dehydration—something we saw right away with Stella when we made the decision to go to the ER. If parents are concerned about their child, they should seek care right away by either calling or going to see their pediatrician or going to an emergency room.

In addition to sharing Stella’s story, my son is enrolled in an RSV vaccine study at Vanderbilt. I am hopeful for what the future holds and will continue to help parents learn more about how to protect their children.

Alison Carroll, MD, MPH, a pediatric hospitalist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, lives in Tennessee with her husband and two children, Stella and Vincent.

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