The rise in respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza is believed to be a result of children and babies born during lockdown having not built-up immunity against the germs they would usually pick up from playgroups, nurseries and schools.
The situation is expected to get worse once schools break up, and families visit Cornwall on holiday.
Dr Rob White, NHS Kernow’s urgent clinical care lead, said: “During the past month we have seen an increase in children with mild fevers, barking coughs, and chest infections. We usually see these conditions in the autumn, not July, and it’s putting pressure on our NHS because parents are worried their child’s fever or cough may be COVID-19. A fever alone, however high, rarely needs to be treated by clinicians in our emergency department, or the ambulance service.
“Chesty infections such as bronchiolitis, and croup can lead to some children having difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing, but most viral illnesses usually clear up within 10 days, and without the need for medical support. They can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as children’s liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen (Calpol) to help with symptoms, and keeping children hydrated with water. Parents should stock up on liquid paracetamol, and make sure they have a thermometer at home.
“It can be worrying when your child is unwell, and often what parents need is some reassurance their child isn’t developing serious complications from a virus, or has an infection that might need more treatment. GPs, pharmacists, and NHS 111 are ready to provide that support.”
Parents are being urged to plan for a stress-free summer by popping some children’s paracetamol in with their weekly shop, and familiarising themselves of the signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses, how to treat them at home, and knowing when to get medical help.
They can also download the NHS’ HANDI app, or Healthier Together, which have been developed by local paediatricians to give parents up-to-date health advice in the palm of their hand. They’re both free and ask questions about the child’s symptoms, and then provide information about what may be wrong, what they can do to help, and when to call for medical help.
Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust paediatrician Dr Tom Fontaine added: “Our NHS expects to see a huge increase in children during the next 2 months. Most will have a mild self-limiting illness, some will be more seriously unwell.
“What we want is for these children to be seen by the right person, at the right time, and in the right place. Our 999 service and emergency departments are under intense pressure, and the biggest increase we’re seeing are in children with a fever. We understand that having an unwell child is always worrying, but the NHS is here to help if needed. Most of these illnesses are not serious and will get better without any medical attention.
“For most children, treatment with children’s paracetamol (such as Calpol) or ibuprofen (but not both at the same time) is usually enough to reduce the fever, and the child will start to feel better after a few days. Make sure your child stays hydrated by drinking clear fluids like water or squash.
“Parents who are concerned about their child’s fever should call their GP or 111 when the surgery is closed and it cannot wait until it reopens. Pharmacists can also provide advice and treatment.”
Always seek medical advice or bring the child in to the emergency department if:
- your baby is younger than 3 months, and has a temperature of 38°C (101°F) or higher
- your baby is 3 to 6 months and has a temperature of 39°C (102°F) or higher
- you think your child is not drinking well, or is dehydrated (for a baby, this means that they are taking less than half of their normal feeds and having fewer than 2 wet nappies a day)
- your child develops a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it
- your child has a fit (convulsion)
- your child is crying constantly and you can’t console or distract them, or the cry doesn’t sound like their normal cry (such as high pitched)
- the fever lasts for more than 5 days or the child is becoming more unwell
- you are concerned how hard your child is working to breath