Parents are being urged to know how to spot the signs of a common children’s breathing illness and when and where to seek help, as Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) and other trusts across the South prepare for an increase in admissions this autumn.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is contagious and can be prevalent among children but has largely been suppressed by social distancing because of COVID-19 in the past 18 months. Recently, cases have started to rise once again.
Most children with RSV will experience mild illness; symptoms are typically a runny nose, coughing and sneezing, fever and wheezing - although they probably won’t occur all at once.
However, the virus can cause bronchiolitis – a lower respiratory tract infection that in some cases can prove severe, especially for those under the age of two.
As children across the county return to classrooms this week, HHFT is launching an awareness drive alongside colleagues from neighbouring hospitals in Southampton, Portsmouth, and the Isle of Wight and healthcare providers in the region, to help parents and carers recognise the symptoms so they can take action early.
Modelling by Public Health England predicts there could be twice as many more cases of children needing hospitalisation than normal this autumn and winter.
Dr Nick Ward, consultant paediatrician and divisional medical director at HHFT, said: “Respiratory viruses are common and RSV is not a new virus, however the steps taken in the last 18 months to prevent COVID-19 meant we saw a drop in the number of cases.
“Now that precautions outside of hospital settings have eased, we are seeing more children become unwell who had not previously been exposed to the virus. This means we are likely to see cases of bronchiolitis in slightly older children, and more may be affected.
“It’s important to know that in most cases a child will only suffer mild symptoms and can be cared for at home. The key is knowing what to look for and taking action early by seeking advice and help from your pharmacy or GP if needed.
“If your child is unwell, keep them at home to help reduce transmission to others."
Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer at HHFT, added: “Across our hospitals we have plans in place should we see a continued rise in the number of children who become unwell and need hospital care.
“Whilst this is something we are prepared for, we know that the winter always leads to increased pressure across our services with colder weather and viral illnesses also playing a part.
“By spotting the signs early and seeking advice, you can help us to care for everyone who needs our help. If you aren’t sure what to do next, contact your GP, pharmacist or use NHS111. We are always here for you in the case of an emergency.”
For more information about RSV, including signs and symptoms to look out for, visit the Healthier Together website at https://what0-18.nhs.uk