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Parents asked to take extra care this festive season to combat the spread of respiratory infections

13 December 2021

Health officials in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin are asking parents to take extra care this winter and know the signs to look out for following an increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children.

Respiratory illnesses are common in young children, especially in winter, and RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and may cause a cough or cold in older children and adults. However, in young children it can cause bronchiolitis, which can lead to more serious respiratory problems in very young children with health conditions or complex medical needs.

Dr John Pepper, Chair of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG, said: “We are seeing a rise in RSV infections in children because babies born during the COVID-19 lockdowns have not had a chance to build a strong immunity because of social distancing. RSV is spread through tiny droplets of liquid from the coughs or sneezes of someone who’s infected.

“To reduce the risk of children catching bronchiolitis, make sure to wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently, wash or wipe toys and surfaces regularly, keep infected children at home until their symptoms have improved, and keep newborn babies away from people with colds or flu.”

Steve Ellis, Associate Director of Primary Care at Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG, said: “We’re expecting levels of common seasonal illnesses such as cold and flu to increase as people mix more this winter, and given that fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the pandemic.

“Children under two are at a particular risk of severe infections from common seasonal illnesses. If a child under two is suffering from a cold, keep a close eye on their symptoms and make sure to contact your doctor if they get a high temperature, become breathless, or have difficulty feeding. It’s important that we carry on with good hygiene habits in order to protect ourselves and those around us. We can also play our part by getting both COVID-19 vaccine doses and, when eligible, getting the booster jab to protect yourself from serious illness and reduce the risk of spreading infection.”

Around 1 in 3 children in the UK will develop bronchiolitis during their first year of life.

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are like those of a common cold, such as a runny nose and a cough. They may then develop into:
• a slight high temperature (fever)
• a dry and persistent cough
• difficulty feeding
• rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing)

If your child has any of these symptoms, or you are concerned, it is important you contact your GP or NHS 111 to get advice. The NHS is here for you.

Call 999 if your child is:
• struggling to breathe
• appears floppy
• becomes unresponsive

If they are unable to feed or drink or have a dry nappy for more than 12 hours – call 111 any time, day or night, to arrange an urgent medical assessment.

If you are unsure where to turn, the NHS 111 online service can provide help and advice. If it is life-threatening, you should call 999.

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Page last updated 13 December 2021