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Rise in non-Covid virus that can leave children struggling to breathe

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Parents are being warned to look out for signs of a non-Covid virus that is “rife” in the UK amid a surge in reports of children struggling to breathe.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) said Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is staging a comeback this winter after lockdown last year meant there were fewer infections than would normally occur.

It is concerned that this year children will have “much lower immunity” at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.

“In the last few weeks, we have noticed a surge in calls from parents who are worried about their child’s breathing,” said Caroline Fredericks, a respiratory nurse who supports the BLF’s helpline. “Most of these parents have never heard of RSV which is worrying.”

RSV is common in babies and children. Almost all will have had it by the time they are two. It may cause a cough or cold but for some it can lead to bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways which can make it hard to breathe.

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold but can develop over a few days into a high temperature, a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, and wheezing. While many cases clear up in two to three weeks, some children will end up being hospitalised.

“There are steps parents can take to make their child more comfortable at home if their RSV develops into bronchiolitis, such as keeping their fluid intake up, helping them to breathe more easily by holding them upright when feeding and giving them paracetamol or ibuprofen suitable for infants,” said Fredericks.

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Source: The Guardian, 12 January 2022

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