When it’s more than just a cold

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A campain aims to cut the number of children taken to hospital with bronchiolitis. Catherine Scott reports

When one of Kirsty Waites’ twins fell ill, doctors diagnosed a chest infection.

Joshua, who was just eight weeks old at the time, was actually suffering from bronchiolitis.

Now Kirsty is backing a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the condition in a bid to reduce the number of children being admitted to hospital.

“I wish the GP hadn’t assumed it was a chest infection and we hadn’t had to wait two weeks seeing Joshua get worse and worse,” says Kirsty of Northallerton.

“If I want to find out anything about bronchiolitis, I go online but then I read things that terrify me. I wish at some point someone would just have given me a basic information leaflet on bronchiolitis to read.

“I want to raise awareness so other parents know what to look out for.”

Bronchiolitis usually occurs during the winter months from November to March. Many babies with bronchiolitis suffer from cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough and mild fever, but severe cases can cause complications such as difficulty breathing and a high fever. Premature babies are more at risk of respiratory infections like bronchiolitis because their lungs may not have had time to mature fully in the womb during pregnancy.

Kirsty has two sons, aged four and five, and twins, Joshua and Tallulah who were born at 35 weeks.

When they were eight weeks old, Joshua fell ill and while he became very poorly, Tallulah remained completely well.

When Joshua first became ill, Kirsty took him to the GP who said that he had a chest infection and gave him a course of antibiotics.

However, these didn’t help and Kirsty had to make daily trips to the doctor as she was very worried about Joshua as he appeared to be getting consistently worse every day.

After a fortnight, he remained unwell and at this point, Joshua was referred to a paediatrician at the local hospital.

The paediatrician tested him for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), which came back positive, and told Kirsty that he had bronchiolitis. Joshua was then admitted to hospital, where he stayed overnight. Kirsty was taught how to use inhalers with him, and he had his oxygen levels monitored.

After Joshua was discharged, he remained ill throughout the rest of the winter with a constant wheeze.

Before Joshua was diagnosed, Kirsty had never heard of RSV or bronchiolitis, and when she was told that this was what was wrong with Joshua, she had to look it up on the internet to find out what it was.

She had also not been told that RSV and bronchiolitis were two separate things. Kirsty feels very frustrated that she did not even know this.

The following year, in October 2013, Joshua became ill with bronchiolitis again and had to spend two days in hospital. Despite recovering from this, he went back into hospital the following month for a whole week.

Kirsty now knows what to look out for and how to identify the symptoms of bronchiolitis.

With three other children, every time Joshua is ill Kirsty has do her best to carry on with her regular routine, as otherwise there would be a huge impact on her family.

Now a campaign, More than Just a Cold has been launched, led by special care baby charity Bliss and Tamba (the Twins and Multiple Births Association), it is is supported by the British Lung Foundation, Tiny Tickers, Tiny Life and Well Child. “More Than a Cold” provides a range of information materials for parents which have been developed to raise awareness of winter illnesses.

Keith Reed, CEO of Tamba, says: “Almost half of multiple birth babies will need to spend some time in special care and we know how distressing it is for parents when their baby starts life with a hospital stay.

“We want to help parents do what they can to keep their babies healthy and out of hospital so they don’t have to go through the stress of visiting hospital again. Even the smallest and simplest actions – such as washing hands thoroughly and not smoking around babies – could have a remarkable impact on the wellbeing of premature babies and their families.”

For more information on bronchiolitis and the campaign visit www.morethanacold.co.ukap