Rewatch our winter illnesses Q&A with leading specialist

4 mins read

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Tags: covid, facebook live, flu, Q&A, winter illnesses, vaccines, virus

Watch our excellent Facebook Live session with a leading paediatric respiratory specialist on protecting vulnerable children from winter illnesses. 

If you missed our excellent Facebook Live on protecting children from winter illnesses, you can still watch it watch it back on Facebook. 

The session with Dr Martin Samuels, a Great Ormond Street paediatric respiratory consultant, is ideal for parents of clinically vulnerable or disabled children who regularly get sick with respiratory infections during the winter months.  

From supplements and Covid to RSV and immunisation

In the 45-minute Q&A, Dr Samuels shares expert advice with parents on topics ranging from supplements to clearing mucus when a child finds it hard to cough and clear their lungs,  

He also answered questions on immunisations, Covid, prevention, and a new treatment for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) that may be available for children later this year.  

Dr Samuels said secondary infections were common in vulnerable children. “If a child is still getting high temperature over two weeks, there may be a superimposed infection on the original virus. Maybe a bacterial infection. It is common for vulnerable children with a virus to get a secondary bacterial infection that needs treating with antibiotics.”  

“I’ve seen a lot of RSV/bronchiolitis – a lot of nasty illnesses in 1-5s – this year. RSV fills out wards every year starting in August.” 

He said children’s wards could “look very different next winter” if the Department of Health introduces nirsevimab, a new treatment for RSV.  

Dr Samuel’s key messages for parents

Vitamins and supplement   

  • It is still a matter of debate whether multivitamins can protect children from winter respiratory illnesses.  
  • Multivitamins like Abidec are recommended nationally for all children up to the age of 5.  
  • Avoid giving your child excess vitamins.
  • Extra vitamins are unnecessary if you child has a full and balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.  
  • Some children who don’t get enough light exposure may have vitamin D deficiency, which doctors can easily test for.

Childhood immunisations and vaccines  

  • Dr Samuels strongly recommends all children have the full childhood immunisation schedule and the flu vaccination. “Whooping Cough, pneumonia and flu can still cause serious illness and death, including in healthy children.”  
  • Highly vulnerable children benefit from having an additional pneumococcal immunisation – the PPV vaccine – from two years old. Speak to your GP or specialist.  
  • He doesn’t especially advocate for children to have the Covid vaccine because the virus rarely leads to serious illness in children, including vulnerable children. The main risk factor of serious illness from covid in children is obesity.  
  • It’s hard to prevent children catching winter viruses and bugs, but parents can prevent friends and families with colds visiting. 
  • It’s very important to attend school, as education has so many benefits for children. Mask wearing is effective protection if parents are worried.  

Clearing mucus  

  • Use 0.1% saline drip or spray to clear the nasal passages – available from pharmacies.
  • Over the counter Otrivine is a stronger medication that thins the nasal lining and helps dry up the nose. But don’t use for more than seven days.
  • Inhaling steam helps – take care with hot water. Some children may not be able to engage with this process.  
  • Most cough medicines are ineffective for clearing the lower airways.  
  • Paediatricians or respiratory specialists can prescribe nebulisers that draw mist (usually saline solution) in the child’s airways to loosen secretions.  
  • Physiotherapists can also use Cough Assist, a device that helps children with a weak cough.  

More information on winter illnesses

Visit our website to find out more about the signs of common winter viruses in babies and children and getting the flu vaccine for you child.