Published August 11, 2021 at 19:10
Local health bosses are encouraging parents to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses in young children, as data from Public Health England (PHE) shows cases are starting to rise in parts of the country.
Respiratory illnesses, including colds and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are very common in young children. However last winter, due to the various restrictions in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, there were far fewer infections in younger people. This means many will not have developed immunity and so more cases may be seen this year than in a typical season.
For the majority of children, these illnesses will not be serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids.
RSV is a very common virus and almost all children are infected with it by the time they are two years old. In older children and adults, RSV may cause a cough or cold.
However, some children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can suffer more serious consequences from these common infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways – which can make it hard to breath.
The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold but can develop over a few days into a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).
Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:
- You are worried about your child.
- Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last 2 or 3 feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
- Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
- Your child seems very tired or irritable.
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.
If encouraged to take a PCR test and this turns out to be negative, don’t assume that the child is therefore fine. Consult your GP in line with guidance.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said: “Respiratory illnesses, including colds and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), are very common in young children, but it is unusual to see so many at this time of year.
“The reason we are seeing more respiratory illnesses is due to the measures taken as a society during the pandemic to combat Covid-19.
“Now restrictions have eased, we are seeing more children presenting with RSV and other respiratory illnesses.
“The majority of the time RSV and other respiratory illnesses are not serious, with children usually recovering after plenty of rest and fluids. However, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children under two and can be severe, particular for children born prematurely or with a heart condition.
“While most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious, it is important that you are aware of the warning signs and contact your GP or the NHS via 111 if you are worried about your child.
“The main signs to look out for is whether your child is not feeding properly, have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more, have a persistent high temperature of 38C or above, or seem very tired or irritable.
“If your child becomes breathless, their tongue or lips are blue, or there are long pauses in their breathing, then call 999 for an ambulance immediately.”