Parents warned of winter virus 'rife' among babies and young children

Parents have been urged to look out for signs of RSV

Parents have been urged to look out for signs of RSV - Credit: PA

Parents have been urged to be aware of a winter virus that can lead to young children and babies being admitted to hospital.

The British Lung Foundation has warned of a surge in cases of respiratory synctial virus (RSV), which has seen around 1,000 children hospitalised nationwide.

The virus has similar symptoms to coronavirus, including a mild cough, blocked or runny noses and raised body temperatures.

It is thought the virus, which in severe cases can turn into bronchiolitis, is particularly prevalent this year because last year's lockdown saw children less exposed to it, reducing natural immunity.

And the BLF says the virus is "rife", reporting a 400pc increase in the number of calls it has received from parents concerned about their children.

Caroline Fredericks, respiratory nurse for the British Lung Foundation

Caroline Fredericks, respiratory nurse for the British Lung Foundation - Credit: BLF

Caroline Fredericks, a respiratory nurse for the BLF, said: "In the last few weeks we've noticed a surge in calls from parents worried about their child's breathing who aren't sure where to turn.

"Most of these parents have never heard of RSV and what its symptoms are, which is worrying.

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"In most cases, RSV will be mild and clear in a few days, but some children do experience more severe symptoms."

At the region's largest hospital it has provided a large chunk of the workload for its children's team in recent months - although it does appear to have peaked.

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: "The number of RSV attendances has dropped significantly over the last couple of weeks, but it has been a significant part of of the workload for our children's services over the last couple of months."

The BLF's warning is particularly aimed at newer parents, with babies under the age of six months being those most likely to develop these symptoms.

And those born either prematurely or with lung conditions are the most at risk of developing serious symptoms.

The symptoms to look out for are as follows:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • A mild cough
  • Body temperatures of above 37.5C
  • Breathing becoming rapid, laboured, noisy or wheezy
  • Babies not feeding well, taking in half to three-quarters of their usual amount
  • Dry nappies for longer than 12 hours
  • Children being more sleepy and less alert than usual

Any parent concerned their child may have RSV should seek the advice of their doctor or call the BLF helpline on  03000 030 555.

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