Rise in RSV among younger children – here’s what to look out for

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is one of the common viruses that cause coughs and colds in winter. Although it is a common seasonal winter virus which causes mild respiratory infection in adults and children, it can be severe in infants who are at increased risk of acute lower respiratory tract infection. This year, because of lockdown easing, we are expecting to see a 20%-50% increase in the number of RSV cases through the summer months. As measures such as social distancing and mask wearing have been relaxed, this has increased exposure to younger children who have never been exposed to these common viruses before.

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold, such as a runny nose and a cough.

Further symptoms can develop over the next few days, and may include:

  • a slight high temperature (fever)
  • a dry and persistent cough
  • difficulty feeding
  • rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing)

Parents should seek emergency NHS care if their child becomes breathless – the most common symptom of severe RSV.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • you’re 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 38C 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.

We have produced a useful traffic light information page which you can print off to help remind yourself of the symptoms you should look out for:

If you would like this information in any other languages or formats, please contact sxccg.comms@nhs.net.