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Winter respiratory infection poses risk to very young children

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Community and hospital nurses are being urged to help prevent emergency admissions this winter by raising awareness of bronchiolitis among parents with very young children.

The common lower respiratory tract infection, which primarily affects babies, is the subject of the annual More Than a Cold campaign supported by a range of children’s charities.

The push comes amid concern over a significant rise in hospital admissions among infants with bronchiolitis in recent years.

However, a recent survey of 2,000 parents aged 18 to 40 with children aged under five found 58% had never heard of the condition.

To support the campaign, organisers have developed a range of information resources that health visitors, midwives, and nurses working in both primary and secondary care can share with families.

These include a Winter Illness Checklist poster, a leaflet about bronchiolitis and Vernon the Virus comic strip for children.

The materials emphasise that simple steps like washing hands thoroughly before touching a baby and not smoking around infants can help reduce the risk of infection.

Sandra Brown, a nurse with the special care baby charity Bliss, said sharing this kind of basic information could help spare parents the trauma of having to rush their newborn to hospital, as well as saving the NHS money.

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said it was particularly important to raise awareness of the risk to premature babies.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Hilary Cass

“We must ensure parents of premature babies understand some of the symptoms that could indicate a more serious infection and act accordingly,” she said.

“It’s also important healthcare professionals know that babies born prematurely are at greater risk of bronchiolitis and may be more vulnerable in winter,” she added.

The More Than a Cold campaign is being spearheaded by the charities Bliss and Tamba (The Twins and Multiple Birth Association) and pharmaceutical company AbbVie.

It is supported by the British Lung Foundation, NCT and charities Tiny Tickers, Tiny Life and Wellchild, which promote work with vulnerable children and babies.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • A great idea to use a campaign to spread the simple messages about keeping well during winter. I will certainly download the materials, display them and use the messaging during telephone conversations at the out of hours service I work in.

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