[Podcast] Common childhood viruses

Alice Windsor
Former Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK
03 June 2021
Next review due June 2024

In this podcast, I’m joined by Bupa GP, Dr Samantha Wild, to discuss common childhood viruses.

Find out why children pick up so many viruses, how to manage them and when to seek medical advice. We also discuss the impact of the pandemic on general immunity and if the vaccination programme will extend to children.

Key points from the podcast conversation


  • In the first few years of life, catching viruses is the best way for your child to build a strong and healthy immune system.
  • The average school-aged child can get three to eight colds a year, and two to three bouts of viral gastroenteritis a year. This number will drop as they get older and their immunity builds.

When to seek medical advice

  • Use your parental instincts as a mum, dad or carer when it comes to your child’s health. If you simply feel they aren’t right, seek advice.
  • If your child has a very high fever, are floppy or sleepy, or are having difficulty breathing always get medical advice.
  • Use your judgement when to contact your GP surgery, call 111 (good to use outside of surgery hours) or 999 (emergencies only).

Temperatures (fever) in children

  • A temperature is your body’s way of fighting off an infection. A normal temperature is around 36.4 degrees. A high temperature is anything over 38 degrees. Keep your child well hydrated and offer paracetamol (Calpol) if they need it.
  • Get medical advice if your baby (under three months old) has a temperature above 38 degrees, or over 39 degrees in a child between three and six months. For older children, seek advice if their temperature isn’t settling, or they’re also drowsy, confused or have fast or laboured breathing.

Viral rashes

  • Viral rashes are very common in young children. They usually appear as pink or red spots on the chest and back area. They often appear symmetrically (rather than on one side of the body).
  • See a doctor about a rash if it’s causing pain or doesn’t fade when pressed – use a clear glass to test for this. This can be a sign of meningitis.

Coughs in children

  • Coughs in children are common because mucus from colds trickles down the back of your child’s throat. If your child is otherwise healthy, there’s nothing to be concerned about. A cough is a natural function to help clear the chest and throat.
  • If a cough lasts for more than three weeks, or your child has a very high temperature or difficulty breathing with it, contact your GP.
  • If your child’s cough is brought on by running around, contact your GP. This might be a sign of asthma.
  • If your child develops croup, don’t use steam. Sit your child upright, keep them as calm and relaxed as possible, and seek medical attention if they’re struggling to breathe. Some children may need to go to the hospital immediately. They will most likely receive a single dose of a steroid medicine, which is usually very effective.

The pandemic and immunity in children

  • Because of the pandemic, many children may not have picked up as many childhood illnesses. But this is unlikely to be an issue for their long-term immunity and health. As we ease out of lockdown and mix with others, the usual bugs will start to circulate again.
  • Children are offered the flu vaccination every year because immunity drops over time and flu viruses are constantly changing (new strains). The flu vaccine has been around for years. It’s very safe and effective.
  • Currently, the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine isn’t offered to children, but this is under review and may change over time.

We now offer GP appointments for children aged between 1 and 18. Find out more about our Under 18 GP Service, call us on 0330 822 3072.

Alice Windsor
Alice Windsor (she/her)
Former Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK

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