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Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Health chiefs in England 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 and we see them every year.
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 we may see more cases 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 2 years old. In older children and adults, RSV may cause a cough or cold.
However, some children under 2, 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 breathe.
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.
While still at low numbers, respiratory infections in young children are expected to rise this summer and as we go into the winter months.
Find out more about the symptoms and what to do here.
Good respiratory and hand hygiene can reduce the spread of these infections. Parents are advised to carry tissues and use them 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.