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Parents & carers being advised to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses and when to get help

Graphic about Respiratory Syncytial Virus Local health experts locally are urging parents and carers to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses in children.

Numbers of cases are higher than usual for this time of year and expected to rise further over the winter months.

Common virus

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that causes coughs and colds in winter and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children aged under two.

In the UK, the RSV season usually begins in the autumn and runs throughout the winter. However, this year it is being seen in children much sooner.

Common symptoms of bronchiolitis are runny nose, a rasping, dry cough, mild increase in temperature. It may cause reduction in feed and more noticeable effort in breathing.

Struggles

Most cases of bronchiolitis pass within two to three weeks, but parents and carers should contact their GP or call NHS 111 if their child:

  • struggles to breathe;
  • has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds;
  • has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more;
  • has an ongoing high temperature of 37.8C or above.

Children aged under two months, those born prematurely and those with underlying health issues, such as a heart condition, are at higher risk of severe bronchiolitis. Their parents and carers should consider accessing health advice earlier.

999

Parents and carers are also advised to dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing.
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue.
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing.

Simple measures

Dr Shyam Mariguddi, clinical director for children’s medicine at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, said that while respiratory infections are common in children, last winter saw fewer of them because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

He said: “We’re now seeing more new cases as restrictions have lifted and many new parents may not have experienced respiratory illness in their child until now. Understandably, this may be very concerning for them.

“For the majority of children, however, these illnesses will not be serious and the child can be cared for at home with simple measures such as paracetamol, rest and plenty of fluids.”

Concerned

Dr Kati Scholtz, clinical lead for respiratory conditions at NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “If your child has a sore throat, cough or cold and you are concerned about them, contact NHS 111 by phone or online in the first instance or your GP can advise if needed.”

“Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if you’re worried about your child, they’re not feeding properly, they have a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above, or they seem very tired or irritable.”

Reduce the spread

There are simple steps you can take to reduce the spread of all viruses:

  • Use tissues to catch coughs or sneezes, bin the used tissues as soon as possible and wash your hands with soap and warm water to kill the germs.
  • Children with flu or bronchiolitis symptoms should stay home and reduce contacts where possible.
  • Particularly avoid close contact with new-born babies, infants born prematurely (before 37 weeks), children under 2 born with heart or lung conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.

Find NHS advice about the symptoms of bronchiolitis and what to do. 

In this video Dr Shyam Mariguddi talks about bronchiolitis in children.