Rise in respiratory conditions among younger children – what to look out for

Respiratory conditions among young children have increased considerably over the past few months.

This year because of lockdown easing we have seen a 20%-50% increase in the number of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases through the summer months, and as we now transition towards the autumn and winter it is really important that parents of young and vulnerable children know when they should seek medical attention.

There is a very useful traffic light approach people can access here which is aimed at parents of under 2s and can help people decide quickly whether your child needs medical intervention or can be cared for at home. We are urging all parents to know the warning signs of respiratory conditions and to contact their health care professional when they need to.

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis/ RSV 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 become 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 child is having difficulty breathing.
  • your child’s tongue or lips are blue.
  • there are long pauses in your child’s breathing.

Michaela Green from Sussex had first-hand experience of Bronchiolitis last month when one of her twins was admitted to hospital with the respiratory disease;

“Like any mother I know my child inside and out and I just knew this was more than a common cold, I checked her temperature and it was reading at well over 38C but it was her breathing that concerned me the most as she was struggling to breath and inhaling lots more than usual. After a call to my GP we were sent straight to hospital. After a few days of care we were sent home and thankfully she is back to normal now. I will be keeping a print out of the traffic light poster on my fridge so I have quick access to it should any of my three children have symptoms in the future”.

Dr Patience Okorie GP and Clinical Director responsible paediatrics across Sussex said:

“We have seen a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses within our clinics and trusts over the past few months. It is important that parents call their GP or 111 if they are worried about their child, and it is also important that parents know what symptoms of respiratory conditions are as most children will improve on their own with no medical intervention required”.