The clocks have gone back and the days are getting darker, meaning one thing: winter is coming. And with the cold weather comes all manner of illnesses, from runny noses to coughs and even worse, the flu. But, this year, it's something else entirely that's got experts worried, prompting them to urge anyone with cold symptoms to stay away from babies.
It all started when experts noticed a sharp increase in hospitalisation rates for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in young children. RSV has similar symptoms to a cold, but can be severe and life-threatening for babies, causing breathing difficulties and fever.
The number of children admitted to hospital with RSV in England has increased from around six per 100,000 to 16 per 100,000 in the past two weeks. And swab positivity for RSV has increased across all age groups by 8.3% in the week up to 1 November.
Because of the dangers associated with RSV in young children, health experts have stressed that anyone with cold-like symptoms – such as a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite or a high temperature – should stay away from babies in case they are suffering with an RSV infection.
"Hospital attendances and admissions for RSV and bronchiolitis continue to rise in young children, in line with what we typically see at this time of year," said Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist for the UK Health Security Agency. "For children under two, RSV can be severe – particularly for babies and those born prematurely."
Watson went on: "If you are ill, do not visit babies. If you are worried your infant has cold symptoms with any unusual breathing or difficulty feeding, please contact 111 or your GP. If your child seems seriously unwell, trust your judgment and get emergency care."
As well as being aware of RSV symptoms, parents are being urged to vaccinate children against flu after a rise in cases. UKHSA data also shows that five to 14-year-olds are now experiencing some of the highest rates in England.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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