RSV symptoms parents should look out for as cases rise in Northern Ireland

Parents are being urged to be aware of a common respiratory viral infection as cases rise across Northern Ireland at this time of year.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) spreads easily in coughs and sneezes and almost all children have had it by the time they’re two years old. In older children and adults, RSV may cause a cough or cold, but in young children it can cause bronchiolitis, which in some cases can be dangerous.

As cases rise at this time of year, Consultant Paediatrician for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Dr Shilpa Shah is urging parents to be aware of the signs to look out for in young babies and children.

Read more: Mum’s warning to stop kissing babies as newborn is in hospital with RSV infection

Dr Shah told Belfast Live: “As we move into the winter months, we are seeing more coughs, colds and chest infections in children in the community and this is definitely translating into an increase in attendances at our services and admissions to our paediatric wards at Craigavon and Daisy Hill hospitals.

“Most of these are caused by a virus known as RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). RSV often affects children under two years old. In most cases it usually causes a mild or moderate illness but there are certain high risk groups where the disease can be severe.

“The first thing to look out for is a greater effort in breathing, it is quite normal for children to breath fast during these illnesses, but if you start seeing your baby experiencing respiratory distress which you can identify through puffing up on the nose, sucking of the muscles in the chest or neck, blueness around the face, lips or mouth, or if there are long pauses in breathing lasting 15 to 20 seconds, you need to get urgent help or bring your child to hospital.

“Another risk is that your child can get dehydrated, so if feeding drops to less than 50% you need to seek help urgently. Or if your child hasn’t passed urine once in 12 hours, you might want to get them checked out within 24 hours by your GP.”

Mairead Donnelly, Head of Health Visiting and School Nursing adds: “We should all remain vigilant with the continued risk of COVID-19 and other infections in the community and there are some steps you can take at home to treat symptoms and to help you know when to seek professional advice.

“We encourage parents to keep a stock of over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol, ibuprofen and teething gels to deal with general ailments in babies aged over three months at home in the first instance and if in doubt, ask your Health Visitor or community pharmacist for advice.

“Familiarise yourself with trusted websites like NIDirect, Healthier Together or the Southern Trust where you know you will find sound information on common symptoms like rashes, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting and download the BabyCheck APP from the Lullaby Trust.

“Most importantly – if you feel your child has very serious, urgent symptoms that cannot wait, please do not delay in bringing them to your nearest Emergency Department or call 999 immediately.”

In the Southern Trust, Phone First – before going to Craigavon or Daisy Hill Emergency Departments or South Tyrone Minor Injuries Unit with urgent but not life-threatening symptoms on 0300 123 3111. It operates Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).


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BelfastLive – Co Tyrone