Local NHS calls on parents and carers to know the signs and symptoms of childhood respiratory disease RSV


The NHS in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire is encouraging parents and carers to look out for symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in young children, as cases are expected to increase over winter months.

RSV is often prevalent amongst young people during this time of year, and spreads easily via coughs and sneezes. Almost all children have had it by the time they are two years old. In older children and adults, RSV may cause a cough or cold, but in young children, it can cause bronchiolitis.

If the virus does cause bronchiolitis – a lower respiratory tract infection that in some cases can prove severe, especially for those under the age of two – it is best to know the signs and symptoms, and when you should seek further advice.

Children infected with RSV usually show symptoms within four to six days after getting infected. Symptoms include:

  • a runny nose
  • decreased appetite
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • fever
  • wheezing

Dr Amanda Webb, Chief Medical Officer at Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board said: “Most children infected with RSV will only experience mild symptoms and they will 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. However it is important for parents and carers to understand when and where they should seek advice and support if they have concerns or if their child is particularly vulnerable.”

“Sore throats, rashes, blocked noses, temperature and other minor symptoms can all be checked with a pharmacist in the first instance. Call your GP practice or NHS 111 if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms. Children who are grunting, very lethargic and experiencing pausing in breathing require urgent medical treatment and you should call 999 for emergency assistance.”

Resources are available to help families understand more about RSV and other childhood illnesses, especially during the cooler months of the year. Great Western Hospital in Swindon has created a film outlining key signs and symptoms of RSV featuring expert advice from a paediatric consultant: https://x.com/NHSBSWICB/status/1728352888752046259?s=20

The Healthier Together website, which is endorsed by the NHS and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, includes details about identifying and treating RSV Bronchiolitis and RSV :: Healthier Together (what0-18.nhs.uk)

Parents and carers can also access more information about a wide range of child health concerns on the Healthier Together website which features useful advice and gives traffic light guidance to parents for a range of common conditions: Worried now about your child (aged 3 months and over)? :: Healthier Together (what0-18.nhs.uk)