Children's winter illness - information on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

We often associate the colder winter months with getting a cough or a cold and for most adults, the symptoms are usually very mild.

But this year, because we have all been keeping our distance from one another and washing our hands more than usual, this has meant that more babies and children haven’t been exposed to the usual bugs and viruses they would normally have caught.

--Symptoms of RSV / bronchiolitis--

The early symptoms of RSV/bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold such as a runny nose and a cough. Further symptoms then usually develop over the next few days, including: • a slight high temperature (fever) • a dry and persistent cough • difficulty feeding • rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing)

Symptoms are similar to COVID-19 so please take a PCR test to rule out coronavirus.

--When to seek medical help--

Most cases are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks but contact NHS 111 or GP if: • you're worried about your child • your baby has taken less than half of their usual amount during the last 2 or 3 feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more • your child has a persistent high temperature of 38C or above • your child seems very tired or irritable

A doctor will examine your child, including looking at their breathing in order to make a diagnosis of bronchiolitis.

You should dial 999 for an ambulance immediately if: • your child is having difficulty breathing • your child’s tongue or lips are blue • there are long pauses in your child’s breathing.


There's no medication to kill the virus that causes RSV/bronchiolitis, but the infection usually clears up within 2 weeks without the need for treatment.

Most children can be cared for at home in the same way that you'd treat a cold. Make sure your child gets enough fluid to avoid dehydration. Give paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring down a temperature if the fever is upsetting them.


There are steps you can take to reduce your child's risk of catching viruses like RSV and help prevent it spreading: • wash your hands and your child's hands frequently • wash or wipe toys and surfaces regularly • keep infected children at home until their symptoms have improved • keep newborn babies away from people with colds or flu • avoid smoking around your child, and do not let others smoke around them.

For more information on RSV and other childhood illnesses, visit the Healthier Together website: or take a look at this booklet for information on Childhood winter illnesses Children's winter illness :: Herts Valleys CCG