Highly contagious winter virus in children - the six signs every parent must know
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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common virus and almost all children are infected with it by the time they’re two years old.
The NHS says that it is important to note that it is well documented and is not a novel or new illness, you may have heard it called different things, such as bronchiolitis.
The virus, which is a common childhood illness, usually spreads in the UK each year from October and last for around five months - with infections peaking in December.
It is important for parents to note that most children infected with RSV will only experience mild symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing and sneezing, fever and wheezing and they probably won’t occur all at once.
Most recover in around one or two weeks, and won’t need to see anybody.
However, in some instances, the virus can cause bronchiolitis – a lower respiratory tract infection that in some cases can prove severe, especially for those under the age of two – so it is best to know the signs and symptoms, and when you should seek further advice.
What are the signs and symptoms of RSV
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within four to six days after getting infected. Symptoms include:
A runny nose
These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once.
In very young infants with the virus, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.
Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday and most cases will clear up within a week or two.
Take your child to A&E or call 999 if:
Your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
There are pauses when your child breathes
Your child's skin, tongue or lips are blue
Your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake
As a parent, you may know if your child seems seriously unwell and should trust your own judgement.
How can I prevent the spread?
Illnesses such as RSV often spread seasonally, and in places were young children often spend time within, so stopping the spread can be very difficult. There are however a few simple steps you can take as a paren or relative:
Wash your hands often: Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands will help protect you from germs.
Keep your hands off your face: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Germs spread this way.
Cover your coughs and sneezes: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
Clean and disinfect surfaces: Clean and disinfect surfaces that people frequently touch, such as doorknobs. When people infected
Stay home when you are ill: If possible, stay home from work, school, and public areas when you are sick. This will help protect others from catching your illness.