Health experts locally are urging parents and carers to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses in children with cases higher than usual for this time of year and further increases expected over the winter months.
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 under two. In the UK, the RSV season typically begins in the autumn – earlier than the adult flu season – and runs throughout the winter. However, this year we are now seeing this presenting in children much sooner.
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.
"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."
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.
Dr Mariguddi said most cases of bronchiolitis resolve within two to three weeks, but parents should contact their GP or call NHS 111 if:
- Their child struggles to breathe
- Their child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more
- The child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above
Children under two months of age, those born prematurely and those with underlying health conditions, such as a heart condition, are a higher risk of severe bronchiolitis and parents should consider accessing health advice earlier.
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.
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.”
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 newborn babies, infants born prematurely (before 37 weeks), children under 2 born with heart or lung conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.
View a video of Dr Shyam Mariguddi talking about bronchiolitis in children here: