Childhood respiratory illnesses – health message TOOLKIT

Caring for a child with fever video

This TOOLKIT has been designed for Community Health Champions, partners, GPs, and those with patient communication responsibilities to use quickly at a busy time to support the surge of children presenting with respiratory viruses and illnesses.

Locally our Urgent Emergency Care (UEC) services are already extremely busy and we have started to see a steady increase in patients presenting with childhood respiratory illnesses – most of which are mild or minor systems which could be treated at home. 

Context

NHS England have reported that during the last year there has been a ‘remarkable reduction’ in respiratory viral infections other than COVID-19, because of social distancing measures. This has meant an increasing number of young children have never been exposed to mild viruses. 

NHS England warned earlier in the year that a possible increase in childhood respiratory illnesses was on its ‘radar’ and this might cause an issue moving forward.  The reason for the expected surge is that we have had two winters where children have had limited exposure to common respiratory illnesses.

A prolonged period of low-rate respiratory virus transmission means that the majority children have not experienced mild respiratory illness for some time. 

Babies who may have been born during the first lockdown, have not had chance to build a strong immunity because of social distancing.  As the lockdown restrictions continue to lift NHS E/I are predicting a surge in mirror illnesses amongst this group of patients.             

Key messages

  • NHS England reported earlier this year that an increase in childhood respiratory illnesses is likely, especially in babies who due to social distancing have not developed a strong immunity.
  • Locally, we are seeing a steady increase in mild childhood respiratory illnesses and the number of patients presenting at our A&E departments with mild symptoms which could be treated at home.
  • Parents with children who are experiencing mild or minor respiratory illness such as a sore throat, cough or cold are being urged to seek care from their community pharmacist. Parents who are concerned that symptoms are worsening should contact their GP or 111.
  • Parents should only bring their children to A&E or call 999 if they are finding it hard to breathe or unable to swallow their saliva or fluids.
  • Parents are being encouraged to stock up their medicine cabinets so that they are prepared to treat minor symptoms and illnesses at home.

Social Media Messages

  • If your child is experiencing symptoms of a mild cough, cold, sore throat or fever – you can find information and advice on how to care for your child here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/health/colds-coughs-and-ear-infections-in-children/.
  • Do you have a child who is unwell with a cough, cold or sore throat? Visiting your local community pharmacy is the quickest and most convenient way to access care for minor symptoms. #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If your child is experiencing a fever, here is some helpful information to help you care for them at home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxf2w8fPYCQ #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If you’re worried that your child has a fever, watch this short animation for advice. Help to keep A&E for life threatening injuries and conditions and remember the alternatives that are available. https://vimeo.com/572994200 #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If your child is experiencing a cold, here is some helpful information to help you care for them at home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQcArZw_V7c . #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If your baby is experiencing a cold, here is some helpful information to help you care for them at home https://vimeo.com/573042274/4ac721ff83 #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If your baby has Bronchiolitis, here is some helpful information to help you care for them at home https://vimeo.com/573042299/c6688e21f2 #HelpUsHelpYou
  • You should only attend A&E for serious or life threating conditions. Parents whose children are experiencing mild coughs, colds or sore throats should visit their local pharmacy, contact their health visitor, or call 111.  #HelpUsHelpYou
  • Our A&E departments are increasingly busy and patients are being urged not to turn up at A&E unless their symptoms are life threatening or serious – if they are finding it hard to breathe or unable to swallow saliva or fluids. Parents who are caring for children at home and are concerned that symptoms are worsening should contact their GP or 111. #HelpUsHelpYou
  • If you live in XXXXX (insert -Newcastle/Stoke-on-trent/Leek/Stafford) and require urgent care but it is not life threatening please use one of these NHS services. Alternatively speak to your GP, a pharmacist or call 111 who can provide advice on where to get help #HelpUsHelpYou #NHS https://vimeo.com/572993970
  • Earlier this year, NHS England announced that they are expecting an increase in childhood respiratory illnesses in children, especially babies, who have not had chance to build a strong immunity due to social distancing. Locally, we are encouraging parents to stock up their medicine cabinets and be prepared to treat minor symptoms and illnesses at home.

Here is a list of things that can be brought from a pharmacy or supermarket which might help you care for an unwell child at home. #HelpUsHelpYou

  • Children’s paracetamol
  • Children’s ibuprofen (children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with a pharmacist)
  • Digital thermometer
  • Vapor rub
  • Children’s cough syrup
  • Nasal saline drops
  • Honey
  • Ice-lollies
  • Soft tissues

 

Specific Messages

Cold

Did you know/messages of reassurance for parents:

  • It is normal for a child to have 8 or more colds a year. This is because there are hundreds of different cold viruses and young children have no immunity to any of them as they have never had them before.
  • Children gradually build up immunity and get fewer colds.
  • Most colds get better in 5 to 7 days but can take up to 2 weeks in small children.

 

Selfcare:

  • If your child has a cold the quickest and most convenient way to access care is to visit your local pharmacy.
  • Here are some suggestions for how to ease the symptoms in your child:
    • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
    • Saline nose drops, available from your pharmacy can help loosen dried snot and relieve a stuffy nose.
    • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with a pharmacist first and follow the instructions on the packet.
    • Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.
  • When to seek help:
    • Speak to your pharmacist first, about cough and cold remedies for children.
    • If your child has a sore throat for more than 4 days, a high temperature and is generally unwell, contact your GP or call 111.
    • If they’re unable to swallow fluids or saliva or have any difficulty breathing, go to A&E or call 999 immediately as they may need urgent treatment in hospital.
    • If your child’s symptoms worsen, contact your health visitor, GP or call 111.

 

Sore throats

Did you know/messages of reassurance for parents:

  • Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu.
  • Your child’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or 2 before a cold starts. You can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the pain.
  • Most sore throats get better on their own after a few days.

 

Selfcare:

  • If your child has a sore throat, the quickest and most convenient way to access care is to visit your local pharmacy.
  • Here are some suggestions for how to ease the symptoms in your child:
    • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
    • Switching to soft foods may help and some foods such as ice-lollies and honey can sooth symptoms.
    • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with a pharmacist first and follow the instructions on the packet.
  • When to seek help:
    • Speak to your pharmacist first, for other medicines which may be suitable for your child, depending on their age including using medicated lozenges or anesthetic spray.
    • If your child has a sore throat for more than 4 days, a high temperature and is generally unwell, contact your GP or call 111.
    • If they’re unable to swallow fluids or saliva or have any difficulty breathing, go to A&E or call 999 immediately as they may need urgent treatment in hospital.

 

 

Children’s coughs

Did you know/messages of reassurance for parents:

  • Children often cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat.
  • If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there’s no wheezing, a cough is not usually anything to worry about.
  • A new and continuous cough is a symptom of COVID-19 and you should get a test for your child as soon as possible and isolate until you have the result.
  • Although it’s upsetting to hear your child cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat.

 

Selfcare:

  • If your child has a cough that is not COVID-19, the quickest and most convenient way to access care is to visit your local pharmacy.
  • Here are some suggestions for how to ease the symptoms in your child:
    • If your child is over the age of one, they can try drinking a warm drink of lemon and honey.
    • Putting your child in a warm steamy shower or bath may help to relieve a cough (do not leave your child unattended and always check the temperature).
    • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
    • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with a pharmacist first and follow the instructions on the packet.
  • When to seek help:
    • Speak to your pharmacist first, for other medicines which may be suitable for your child, depending on their age including cough medicines.
    • If your child’s temperature is very high, or they feel hot and shivery, they may have a chest infection. You should take them to a GP, or you can call 111. If this is caused by bacteria rather than a virus, your GP will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Antibiotics will not soothe or stop the cough straight away.
    • If your child has a distinctive barking cough that makes a harsh sound, known as a stridor when they breathe in – this could be croup and you should contact your GP.
    • If a non-COVID-19 related cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or is brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma and you should contact your GP.
    • If your child is finding it hard to breathe, go to A&E or call 999 immediately as they may need urgent treatment in hospital.

 

 

Materials and Resources

Here are some national resources that can be shared and used to help promote the messages.

General information and guidance can be found here

How to care for a child with a cold https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQcArZw_V7c

How to treat a child with a fever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxf2w8fPYCQ

How your community pharmacist can help https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDwherrTpqU

 

The TV advert for NHS111 First is available here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km9Ov6dANOs

Here are some local resources that can be shared:

How to care for a child with a fever animation  https://vimeo.com/572994200

How to care for your baby if they have a cold https://vimeo.com/573042274/4ac721ff83

How to care for your baby if they have Bronchiolitis https://vimeo.com/573042274/4ac721ff83

How to access urgent care in Stafford, Leek, Stoke-on-Trent or Newcastle areas https://vimeo.com/572993970

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