Winter respiratory alerts
Leading into winter, respiratory viruses like influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are common in the community and illnesses can be easily spread.
Doing a few simple things can protect your child, family and the community this winter. It can also reduce the risk of catching or spreading viruses to others.
- Get a flu shot. Book an appointment at our free flu vaccination clinic! We vaccinate children over 6-months, young people, and their parents and carers up to age 65.
- Stay at home if unwell
- Wash or sanitise your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose and going to the toilet
- Wash or sanitise common spaces and items that are frequently touched such as prams, carriers, kids toys etc.
Influenza (also known as 'flu') is a highly contagious illness caused by the influenza virus. It can spread quickly when large numbers of people are in close contact, such as at school, childcare centres, and social gatherings.
An influenza vaccine is the best way to protect your child from serious influenza. Children and babies six months or older need an influenza vaccine every year.
- Read our Influenza Factsheet
- Information about getting the flu vaccine
- Book your free flu vaccination with us
Bronchiolitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation and congestion in the small airways of the lung. It is more common in winter.
Bronchiolitis affects babies under 12 months of age and usually begins as a cold.
Early bronchiolitis symptoms may include a runny or blocked nose, mild cough and slight fever.
Coughing, wheezing and sometimes difficulty breathing can appear as the illness develops. Symptoms of bronchiolitis can last for several days to weeks.
Most children get better with care at home. Some children become acutely ill with bronchiolitis and require hospitalisation and equipment to support their breathing for a short while.
If you are worried please see your GP. If our child is having difficulty breathing, call 000 or go to the nearest Emergency Department.
Watch our video series
We sit down with Dr Matthew O’Meara, NSW’s Chief Paediatrician and Emergency Staff Specialist at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick to answer some of your questions in the videos below.
Watch more to learn about protecting your child from bronchiolitis
- Is bronchiolitis life threatening, when should I see a doctor?
- What medication can my child have or is there a vaccination to prevent bronchiolitis?
- How long will it take for baby to get better? Can I prevent baby from getting bronchiolitis again?
- If there is no medication, what can I do to keep my baby comfortable while they recover?
- If I need to come to hospital, what will happen next?
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the viruses that can cause the common cold. However, it can also cause more serious infections in young children. RSV is very contagious, and is usually more common during autumn and winter, although its patterns of transmission have been changing in recent years.
COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community. Everyone in NSW is being asked to ensure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and to practice COVID-safe behaviours.
Signs of serious illness in children
You know your child best. You can recognise changes in mood, behaviour, activity and appetite that indicate your child may be developing an illness. If there are signs that your child is slightly unwell and you're not sure what you do, call HealthDirect.
If your child's health is getting worse, contact your family doctor.
When should you be concerned?
There are general features of a more serious illness which should prompt you to see a doctor more urgently. These include:
- decreased alertness and irritability
- breathing difficulties
- changes in skin colour and appearance
- drinking less than usual or not passing urine frequently
You should seek help urgently if these features develop rapidly or occur together.
As your child becomes unwell, they may become less active, sleep more and become more drowsy. More serious abnormalities are floppiness, a weak cry, irritability or poor response to things around them – see a doctor urgently if these occur.
If your child becomes unresponsive or unconscious, call Triple Zero (000).
If your child is breathing rapidly, noisily or seems to be having difficulty breathing you should see a doctor urgently. If the problem is very severe you may see a purple colour around your child’s lips or there may be pauses when they stop breathing. You should call an ambulance if these occur.
Skin colour and appearance
If your child has unusual paleness or a purple skin on their arms and legs, you should see a doctor.
Many rashes are due to minor infections and are not serious. If your child has a purple rash that does not fade with pressure you should take them to a doctor urgently. This may be a sign of meningococcal infection. (See meningococcal fact sheet)
Fluids in and out
If your child is drinking less than half the normal amount or not passing some urine every 6 hours you should see a doctor to check if they are becoming dehydrated. Signs of serious problems include:
- vomiting with blood or green fluid
- urine or stool that contains blood.
You should see a doctor urgently if these occur.
Fever itself is not harmful and can generally be treated at home with fluids and rest. If it is a bacterial fever, your child may be given antibiotics by your doctor.
A baby under 3 months with a fever over 38o should be taken to see a doctor as the cause is often hard to find and the other signs of illness may be difficult to detect.
Use the features described above (changes in alertness, breathing, skin colour and fluids in and out) to determine how sick an older infant or child with a fever is. If your child shivers with the fever you should take them to see a doctor.
If your child has a seizure you should lie them on their side and call an ambulance (see seizure fact sheet).
Other signs of potentially serious problems include severe or persistent pain or distress. Contact your local doctor urgently if your child experiences these symptoms.
This fact sheet is available to print in the following languages:
- العربية (Arabic)
- 简体中文 (Chinese, Simplified)
- 繁體中文 (Chinese, Traditional)
- Français (French)
- Ελληνικά (Greek)
- Español (Spanish)
- Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
All Aboriginal people aged six months and over are eligible for a free flu vaccine and a free COVID-19 vaccine, though some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee - Ask your doctor or pharmacist if this applies to you.
Flu in kids can be serious
This video is available in the following languages:
- Arabic (العربية)
- Cantonese (繁體中文)
- Farsi (فارسی)
- French (Français)
- Hindi (हिन्दी)
- Spanish (Español)
- Tamil (தமிழ்)
- Thai (ภาษาไทย)
- Mandarin (简体中文)
- Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ)