Clinicians have been seeing an increasing number children and babies with the virus, which usually circulates during winter, since June, as a result of lockdowns and a lack of socialising for young people which would normally build their immunity.
Now, with nurseries, schools and playgroups open again for the autumn term, the paediatric teams are urging parents across East Lancashire to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and ensure they can treat them appropriately – knowing when is best to care for their child at home, arrange to see their GP or bring them to hospital.
Dr Chris Gardner, consultant paediatrician and deputy medical director at ELHT, said: “The number of cases of RSV is expected to put pressure on our paediatric services, but we want to ensure that children who are at risk of becoming seriously ill get medical attention to receive the treatment they need.
“Symptoms of bronchiolitis from RSV include a persistent cough, noisy or rapid breathing and feeding less or vomiting after feeding. Although the symptoms may be worrying, most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious.
“Children most at risk are those under two, those who are exposed to smoke, and those who have siblings who attend school or nursery, where the virus spreads. RSV may also cause exacerbations of long term conditions such as asthma; it is important therefore that children with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma are taking all of their medication regularly ahead of the surge.
“If you’re worried your child may have bronchiolitis, contact your GP or NHS 111 in the first instance. However, if they have difficulty breathing or are exhausted from trying to breathe, you are unable to wake them or keep them awake, or their skin turns very pale or blue, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
“There are a range of ways that you can prevent your child from developing bronchiolitis”, said Rachel McMillan, advanced nurse practitioner. “Encouraging good hand hygiene for anyone that comes around your child, as well as washing utensils, toys and surfaces regularly will help keep your child safe from infection.
“Minimising the contact a new or premature baby has with new people, particularly those who have a common cold, the flu, or are generally feeling unwell, is also a really good way to prevent them from contracting RSV. Isolating yourself is not recommended, but being cautious about the number of visitors that have contact with your child is a good way of keeping the virus at bay.”
The Trust has put together a range of resources on their website, elht.nhs.uk/RSV, including videos and helpful links for more information.