Parents are encouraged to take extra care this festive season to combat the spread of respiratory viruses

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As Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent see an increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children, health bosses are encouraging parents to take extra precautions this winter.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. In older children and adults, RSV may cause a cough or cold – but in young children, it can cause bronchiolitis. This can lead to more serious respiratory problems in very young children with health conditions or complex medical needs.

Dr Steve Fawcett Medical Director for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs said: “RSV is spread through tiny droplets of liquid from the coughs or sneezes of someone who's infected. Around 1 in 3 children in the UK will develop bronchiolitis during their first year of life. Babies born during the COVID-19 lockdowns have not had a chance to build a strong immunity because of social distancing, and we are seeing a rise in RSV infections in children.”

Dr Steve Fawcett added: “There are a few things we can all do 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.”

Katie Spence, Regional Deputy Director for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in the West Midlands, said: “This winter, we expect levels of common seasonal illnesses such as cold and flu to increase as people in the West Midlands mix more, and given that fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the pandemic.

“Children under 2 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 that we’ve become used to during the pandemic, in order to protect ourselves and those around us.”

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

If your child is struggling to breathe, appears floppy, or becomes unresponsive – call 999. 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 (www.111.nhs.uk) can provide help and advice. If it is life-threatening, you should call 999.

For more information, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bronchiolitis/