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Severe respiratory illness in children Posted on 9 Sep 2021

We’re seeing an increase in severe respiratory illness in children as restrictions ease and people mix more, with cases higher than usual for this time of year and further increases expected over winter months.

Parents are encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe respiratory infection in at-risk children, including a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

While respiratory infections are common in children, last winter saw much fewer infections in younger people due to COVID-19 restrictions. This means that many will not have developed immunity and may be at higher risk of severe illness. We may also see more cases than in a typical season.

For the majority of children, these illnesses will not be serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but parents should contact their GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • Their child struggles to breath.
  • Their child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last 2 or 3 feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • The child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.

Some children under 2, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can suffer more serious consequences from these common respiratory infections.

Find out more about the symptoms and what to do here.

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