GPs and Hospitals across Ireland continue to see a rise in the numbers of young children affected by respiratory symptoms and viruses. Last week saw the highest cases of RSV the country has recorded.
Dr Abigail Collins is the National Clinical Lead for the HSE’s Child Health Public Health Programme and a Consultant in Public Health Medicine, and has the following advice for families:
“Given the current concerning RSV numbers, we all have a particular part to play in protecting newborn and small babies who are most affected. The best way we can protect ourselves and our family members from RSV, common colds, and other winter viruses is to reduce the chance of infection and spread through staying at home if unwell, good respiratory etiquette and hygiene practices. I also strongly encourage all parents of children aged 2 to 17 to get them the free Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine from your local GP or pharmacy.”
There are 7 key ways to help prevent the spread of viruses:
- If you or your child are unwell with cold symptoms, do not attend places with young children and babies, such as child care facilities and school, particularly primary schools and SEN facilities where there is a greater chance of extension out to families with young babies and/or medically vulnerable children.
- Parents of young babies do need to take extra care and be clear about shielding babies from situation where they may come into contact with a virus. This may mean putting friends and family off from visiting for a while if someone is unwell, not encouraging people to touch your baby’s face, and asking people to wear a mask around your baby can also help.
- Clean your hands and your child’s often – ask anyone in contact with your child to clean their hands first.
- Encouraging respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene around all babies and links to babies. Cover your toddler and older child’s nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze, and teach them how to if they are old enough.
- If you’re breastfeeding, it may prevent them from getting bronchiolitis. This is because babies get special proteins called antibodies from breastmilk. Antibodies can protect your child from infection.
- Keep children away from smoking.
- Learn about the flu vaccine for children.
Dr Collins explains why we are seeing such a steep rise in respiratory infections this winter:
“We expect to see more children with these illnesses this year when compared to last year because they have had more contact with one another and therefore the risk of spreading of winter respiratory viruses is increased. In addition, because children had limited contact with one another last year their exposure to all respiratory viruses and resultant immune response was diminished and therefore more children will have lower immunity to these viruses this year.”
“The good news is that most cases are mild and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks without treatment. Antibiotics are not needed and will not help to treat a viral infection. There is lots of great advice on how to look after yourself and your family when you’re sick or have a high temperature on undertheweather.ie and mychild.ie. However, we advise parents to always contact their GP if they are worried, especially if a child’s symptoms get worse quickly or if the symptoms and fever persist despite the use of paracetamol and Ibuprofen”.
About RSV (Bronchiolitis)
RSV, or Bronchiolitis, is a common chest infection in babies and young children. This virus spreads when someone coughs or sneezes and it affects babies and young children under 2 years old, especially babies under 6 months old. Most cases are mild and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks without treatment. Antibiotics are not needed and will not help to treat it.
Main ways to assist babies with bronchiolitis:
- Keep breastfeeding if you are breastfeeding
- Don’t smoke around them
- Feed little and often as able
- Know signs and symptoms and when to present to GP/ED.
Sometimes RSV can be more serious and children with bronchiolitis will need to be cared for in hospital. Parents are advised to trust their instinct, and to always contact their GP if they are worried, especially if the symptoms get worse quickly.
More information and advice can be found at hse.ie/conditions/bronchiolitis. Last updated on: 28 / 11 / 2022