Health

GPs bracing for huge surge in dangerous kids’ viruses this winter – the 6 signs to watch for


DOCTORS across the country are bracing themselves for a huge surge in dangerous viruses that are common in children.

The NHS has told GPs that cases of respiratory viruses could rise by as much as 50 per cent this winter.

Children haven't been exposed to RSV as they haven't been in school as much due to Covid-19

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Children haven’t been exposed to RSV as they haven’t been in school as much due to Covid-19Credit: Alamy

Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England national clinical director for children and young people said that in the “worst case scenario” cases of viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could double.

The lockdowns in place due to the coronavirus pandemic have meant that many children have not been attending school and therefore not mixing with other kids.

This has meant that children have not been exposed to viruses that they would usually come into contact with.

Speaking during an NHS webinar last week, Prof Kenny said that reports from the Southern Hemisphere indicate that as lockdowns ease, other measures are also being relaxed, such as mask wearing and social distancing.

He explained: “The most likely potential model is a 20-50 per cent increase in children with respiratory infections and that’s largely due to the fact that we’ve got a significant cohort of children now who have never had the normal viruses.”

Prof Kenny said that this rise in cases would most likely put pressure on primary care services, 111 and accident and emergency departments, Pulse reported.

His comments come after last month, modelling by Public Health England (PHE) showed that there could be a possible rise in cases of (RSV).

RSV is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children and can infect the lungs and the breathing passages, the British Lung Foundation states.

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But what symptoms should you be looking out for in your kids when it comes to respiratory viruses?

1. Stuffy nose

With hay fever season being in full swing it’s easy to mistake these symptoms for RSV.

But if the stuffy nose is having an impact on how freely your child is able to breath then this could be a symptom of RSV.

What is respiratory syncytial virus?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common, and very contagious, virus that infects the respiratory tract of most children before their second birthday.

For most babies and young children, the infection causes nothing more than a cold.

But for a small percentage, infection with RSV can lead to serious problems such as bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the small airways of the lungs, or pneumonia, which can become life-threatening.

RSV infection can cause cold-like symptoms, including cough and runny nose, which usually last for one to two weeks.

Call your baby’s doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cough producing yellow, green, or grey mucus
  • Unusually upset or inactive
  • Refuses to breastfeed or bottle-feed
  • Signs of dehydration – lack of tears when crying, little or no urine in the nappy for six hours, and cool, dry skin

If your baby is very tired, breathes rapidly, or has a blue tint to the lips or fingernails, get medical attention immediately.

Source: WebMD

2. Sore throat

If your child is complaining of a sore throat then this could be another sign of RSV.

This could also impact their ability to eat and drink and they might complain that they don’t want to eat – as this could be too difficult for them or could even be causing them discomfort.

3. Cough

A cough could be next as many viruses will start with a sore throat before progressing to a cough.

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It’s important that if your child develops a new persistent cough that you get them tested for Covid-19.

A new persistent cough is a key symptom of the virus and as lockdowns continue to ease, it’s likely your child will be mixing more frequently.

If your child has RSV it's likely they will be suffering from a cough

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If your child has RSV it’s likely they will be suffering from a coughCredit: Getty – Contributor

4. Fever

A fever is another symptom of RSV.

As a general rule, the NHS says that a temperature of 38C or over means that your child has a fever.

This is a natural response if the body is trying to fight a cough or cold.

The NHS states: “Many things can cause a high temperature in children, from common childhood illnesses like chickenpox and tonsillitis, to vaccinations.”

Again, a high temperature is also a symptom of Covid-19 so it’s important to get your child tested if you think they might have caught the virus.

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5. Headache

Headaches are also common with children who have RSV.

This can sometimes be because they have been sweating a lot and therefore become dehydrated by the amount of water they have lost.

Try and keep your child hydrated by allowing them to sip water. You can also buy hydration powders from your local pharmacy.

6. General feeling of being unwell

You know your child better than anyone and will be able to tell if they are feeling under the weather.

If they are complaining of feeling unwell then this could also be a sign of RSV.

They could be refusing to eat or struggling to sleep and if you’re worried, you should contact your GP for help.

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One woman previously warned other parents to look after RSV after her little boy was left fighting for his life.

Little Marcelo was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus

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Little Marcelo was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virusCredit: Facebook

Chloé Siler’s three-month-old son Marcelo Pitt had a small cough, but she thought it was due to him sleeping with the air conditioning on.

However when she noticed he was drowsy she rushed him to Toowoomba Hospital in QueenslandAustralia.

Little Marcelo was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – which is currently plaguing infants and children across Australia – as well as bronchitis.

It is feared that safety guidelines used throughout the coronavirus pandemic, such as social distancing, have diminished the collective immunity from the virus, resulting in a huge spike in cases.

Similarly to coronavirus, RSV mimics the symptoms of a cold and the majority of children who catch it are only mildly affected.

But in some youngsters it can be deadly.

Marcelo was suffering from severe dehydration and had to have tubes inserted into his nose.

His mum warned other parents to be vigilant and keep an eye on their kids for any symptoms – describing the bug as a “plague”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the Government is working on the booster jab programme and should have clinical data in the next few weeks





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