With the winter weather having arrived in Dorset, local clinicians are asking parents and guardians to find out more about support for young children as cases of respiratory disease are expected to rise over the coming months.

If your child experiences cold like symptoms and mild breathing difficulty this could be a sign of a common childhood illness called Bronchiolitis. 

Bronchiolitis is a viral infection that tends to affect young children (under 2 years of age) and is usually caused by catching Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Most children will get better on their own and may continue to cough for a few weeks afterwards, however some children – especially those under 6 weeks of age – may develop difficulties and need help supporting their breathing and feeding.

Dr Mark Tighe, clinical director for children’s health at University Hospitals Dorset (UHD), said “With winter arriving we’re seeing an increase in younger patients with RSV admitted to hospital. It is vital that parents and carers know the signs to spot to prevent the condition worsening, and what action to take.

“While RSV will get better without treatment on its own for most, the implications for very young children can be serious.

“As other respiratory infections like influenza increase in numbers in the community at this time of year too, it’s also a great idea to ensure children have had their flu vaccination as an effective preventative measure.”

Find out more about getting your child vaccinated via nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations.

For more information on RSV visit Wessex Healthier Together.

If you have concerns about your child, please contact your GP in the first instance, visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

In an emergency don’t hesitate, please call 999 or head to your nearest emergency department.

UHD is currently taking part in a clinical study to help find an effective treatment for RSV among very young patients. To find out if your child is eligible to take part visit www.rsvharmoniestudy.com/en-gb.

All school age children from Reception to Year 9 (ages 4 – 14) can receive a free flu vaccination. For most pupils this will be a nasal spray not an injection.

The flu nasal spray is an effective, painless and easy way for children to ensure they receive the best protection from flu this winter and helping to keep flu out of the home.

The Flu vaccination programme for pupils in Reception – Year 6 will be finishing in schools in December, so please look out for the offer letter in your emails from your child’s school in order to complete the online consent form. If your child has missed their school session, it’s not too late to book your child in, you can contact the school age immunisation team to book a catch-up clinic by calling 01425 891 162 or emailing dhc.immsenquiries@nhs.net

The Flu vaccination programme for school Years 7- 9 will start end of November and run until January 2023. Look out for the offer letter in your emails from your school.

Further information

University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) is taking part in the HARMONIE study, which is examining a single antibody dose, nirsevimab, which acts in the same way as antibodies in our own bodies but is targeted specifically to fight RSV. Several previous studies have been completed and have shown this antibody dose to work well, so the HARMONIE study is looking to further assess the impact with more babies involved. UHD is looking for babies up to 12 months old and living in Dorset to take part in this important study.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can visit the study website to answer a few questions and see if your baby may be eligible to take part: rsvharmoniestudy.com/en-gb.

We would encourage interested families to get in contact with our friendly research team to find out more at harmonie@uhd.nhs.uk or 0300 019 8355.