Dr Mark Rosenthal


Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8754

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

Understanding the Risks of Viral Infections in Children

Coughs, colds, and infections are very common in children. Most children will have at least 8 colds every year as they build up immunity to these common infections.

Why Are Children More Likely to Catch Viral Infections?

  • Children often mix in large groups in schools, nurseries, playgrounds and other spaces – some come in contact with more people than their parents do!
  • When children are together, they are more likely to come in closer contact as they hug or play together.
  • Young children haven’t learned how to practice proper hygiene by wiping runny noses, covering up coughs and sneezes, and washing their hands regularly.
  • Toys are often shared between children, so they can easily spread germs.
  • Young children often put toys or other objects in their mouths, as well as their own fingers.
  • Children have less developed immune systems so are more likely to be susceptible to the germs they encounter.

understanding the risks of viral infections in children infographics

Why Can Viral Infections in Children Be More Serious?

  • Children’s developing immune systems can’t respond as quickly or strongly to infections, which means they are more likely to develop ear infections, chest infections, or other complications
  • Smaller lungs and airways can be more severely affected by respiratory infections that make them even narrower due to inflammation or mucus, so children are more likely to experience breathing difficulties
  • Children aren’t always aware when they start feeling ill or able to tell their caregivers what is wrong, which means they don’t always rest or drink enough fluids when they are unwell, which can lead to complications such as dehydration

understanding the risks of viral infections in children

Viral infections in children are more likely to be serious in:

  • Babies are at highest risk of developing complications
  • Children under 5 are also at increased risk of complications
  • Children with underlying health conditions, especially if their respiratory system or immune system is affected