How Long for a Premature Baby's Lungs to "Catch-up"?

Updated on November 02, 2012
P.R. asks from Akron, OH
9 answers

A friend had a baby 6.5 weeks premature. He's doing fine so far - no issues. At this point, he's about 9 weeks from his real due date (3.5 months from birth). Her doctor has advised her to not allow any children around him for the first year, if anyone comes who has been on an airplane, they shouldn't touch him etc for about 48 hours, and anyone who has any kind of cold symptom shouldn't come into their house at all. I can see extra precautions initially but I'm a bit surprised it's this rigorous for a whole year. So I'm just curious how long it takes for a premature baby to "catch-up" in a way. ie: when he's 6 months old, aren't his lungs at least similar to say a 3 or 4 month old's who wasn't premature? I'd almost think he could be treated like any baby who is 9 weeks old or even 6 weeks... Just curious. Thanks.

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So What Happened?

Amazing those last few weeks are so key for lung development. Wow. Interesting too that we know people with 4 week premature babies who didn't seem to take any extra precautions at all... Thanks!

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answers from Cleveland on

honestly I think a lot of it has to do with birth weight and just how far along the lungs where developed, even in the womb babies develop differently. I had my first son at 36 weeks and he was over 7 pounds, with no complications and they treated him as full term. However i know people who have had 5 pound babies with all sorts of lung and other issues at 36 weeks, who have had tot take those extra precautions.

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answers from Albuquerque on

Depending on how developed the baby's lungs were at birth, it can take up to 2 years for his lungs to catch up. You'd think that they'd be just a little bit behind, but those last few weeks in utero are so important for lungs... and it takes months/years outside the womb for lungs to grow the same amount as they would have in a few weeks before birth. I don't know about not allowing kids near the baby for a full year or avoiding people who've been traveling, but precautions like hand washing and staying away from crowds are a very good idea.

My twins were born four weeks early. The hospital sent me home with guidelines for six weeks early (wrong sheet); it said to keep them strictly at home for 3 months with limited visitors, avoid indoor crowds like the mall for 6 months, get the RSV shots the next winter, and wash hands and take off shoes the instant we entered the house.

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answers from Lafayette on

RSV is really contagious for premature infants. and that seems to be the primary concern. My daughter had to have RSV shots for the first winter. because of the concern for sickness. she was caught up totally by the time she was 6 months old. but it also depends on the extant of what was wrong with him when he was born. my daugther was breathing on her own, some babies don't.

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answers from Cleveland on

I delivered my DD 4 weeks early and she was just under 6 lbs. Luckily for us, when I went into premature labor at 32 weeks, I got the steriod shots to strengthen her lungs if she was to come early. I am sure the shots helped because the doctor told us to just stay away from crowded areas like malls, stores, etc for a few months, but that was all. If I was your friend, I would just try to avoid large crowds if possible, but I wouldn't be overly cautious and become a hermit for his first year. I would definitely make sure people wash their hands before touching him and if sick to stay away.



answers from Phoenix on

My son was born at 36 Weeks because I was induced due to pre eclampsia. My son could not breath on his own and spent 2 Weeks in the nicu. I kept him away from people for about 3-4 months and he had not gotten sick or anything so I started to take him out on occasion he ended up getting sick at 5 months, but it was nothing major and got over it really quickly, then at 10 months he was hit with rsv very bad. I didn't know what was wrong withhim so I took him to the Dr's. His oxygen levels were so low and could not be stabilized so they called the ambulance. Needless to say he was in the pediatric icu for over a week and at points barely hanging on. Then we got out and at 14 months he got croup and was hospitalized for 3 days. And now every time he gets a cold he has a hard time breathing. He's now 18 months and just got a regular cold and had to be put on steroids and a breathing treatment. So please listen to your doctors. You do not want you're child to go through all of this!



answers from Sacramento on

Reading what Trish has to say reminds me of what the doctor's told me with my premie (he's now a little over 2yrs old).
They told me to keep him away from people, malls, church etc and not let random people in stores touch him. They told me to do that for sure for the first 6 mos or maybe it was a year.
Better to err on the side of caution than have him be around people and have to be hospitalized. They give you that window for a reason. I say follow their advice. Hang in there....this too shall pass.



answers from Toledo on

My daughter was born at 33 weeks and 4 days, so similar to your friend's son. We were able to get the RSV injections at the beginning and that helped but my daughter still got RSV. Fortunately, it was mild due to the injections she had received and she did not have to be in the hospital.
We were given the same guidelines - basically the NICU nurses told us to keep her away from everyone for the first winter. That was not possible since our older daughter was 2 1/2, I work and we are involved in 4-H. We took the precautions we could. I kept them in a home daycare with minimal other children. We had hand sanitizer around the house and washed hands on everyone as soon as people entered the house. We divided parents between the two kids when one was sick to prevent cross contamination. I was not shy with handing hand sanitizer to anyone who wanted to hold her. The biggest issue was when I ran to the store or church. Everyone wants to touch a baby. I would put the baby in a Mai Tai to keep people from touching her (which I know is now controversial). The biggest issues were getting my parents to take it seriously which they finally did after she got sick and almost ended up in the hospital. Good luck!



answers from Columbus on

In this case error on the side of caution. I had a lady in our preschool who's son was that premature. She put him in daycare (because she had to work) and he ended up with a cold that developed into somethine worse. He ended up in the hospital and nearly lost him. The resulting complications meant that he could not be put in childcare for two years. Follow what the doc tells you in this case.


answers from Columbus on

I don't really know how long, but to give you an idea, my son had RSV when he was 7 mo. old and needed nebulizer and a lot of care (he was born at 41 weeks) and the doctor mention that the same thing, for a baby who was born prematurly, it can be deadly (not that it is, but that it can be).
He also mention that the RSV virus feels just like a regular cold for older kids and adults, but it is very serious for babies under 1 yr old, specialy premature babies.
So yes, your friend should be really careful.
Best of luck for her and her baby!

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