Preventing Winter Viruses

Paediatric Emergency Department Tel: 01473 702239

Paediatric Assessment Unit (PAU) Tel: 01473 702198

Bergholt Ward Tel: 01473 702194

Viral infections are common, and are more likely to occur in winter.

Children are particularly prone to catching viral infections as they build their immunity. It is not uncommon for some children to have 6-8 viral infections in a winter period, which can feel like a constant run of illness. It is very unlikely that your child has problems with their immune system, even if they have very frequent viral infections.

Information about viral infections

You cannot prevent viral infections entirely; however there are some simple steps you can take to limit the spread within your home, and to protect your children in future.

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and encourage visitors to do the same before they touch your baby or child.
  • If you know someone has a tummy bug (gastroenteritis) make sure they wash their hands regularly, avoid kissing your baby or child, and don’t share eating utensils or crockery until 48 hours after their vomiting and diarrhoea have settled.
  • Wash or wipe toys regularly with soapy water or sterilising wipes (such as Milton) to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Most viruses are spread by droplets, so cover your baby’s nose and mouth when they cough and sneeze, and encourage older children to use a tissue.
  • Try to keep very young babies, especially vulnerable babies, away from children and adults who are sick or have signs of a cold.
  • Make sure your children are kept away from tobacco smoke and never allow anybody to smoke inside your house.

There is no evidence that keeping your child inside will prevent viruses. Just make sure your child is wrapped up warmly when he or she goes outside.

If your child has a winter virus, it is very likely that the virus will get better on its own. Your child will have symptoms such as: 

  • runny nose with clear or green mucus; 
  • cough that may sound dry or fruity; 
  • fever that may be mild, or very high; 
  • vomiting; 
  • diarrhoea; 
  • reduced appetite; 
  • rash (the rash should disappear when a glass is pressed over it. If it does not disappear, either seek urgent help from your GP, go to your nearest Emergency Department or call NHS 111); and 
  • increased sleeping during the day.

If your child has a viral infection, they do not need antibiotics. Antibiotics will not speed their recovery, stop the virus spreading, or make your child better.

Offer your child regular small drinks and meals.

If your child has a temperature and is very miserable, give paracetamol (Calpol) or ibuprofen to make him or her feel better. If your child has a temperature but is happy in his- or herself, then there is no need to medicate them, as we know that the fever is an important infection-fighting tool of the immune system.

Children with high fever, diarrhoea or vomiting should be kept away from playgroup and nursery. They can return when they haven’t had any diarrhoea or vomiting for 48 hours, and haven’t had fever symptoms for 24 hours.