This plea comes amid growing concern that the coronavirus outbreak is causing people to avoid contacting healthcare services, sometimes resulting in a dangerous life or limb-threatening delay in seeking urgent medical attention.
As a result, the NHS is reassuring parents and carers that professional care is always available, they should always continue to seek advice when worried about unwell babies and children and if assessment or treatment is needed this will be in a safe, low risk environment.
It is also very important for young children up to 1 year old to have their immunisations to protect them against a range of potentially serious infections and GP practices are still offering booked appointments for these.
Dr Helen Haywood, GP and Clinical Lead for Children and Young People at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Families will be staying at home due to the coronavirus and a lot of parents and carers may worry about taking their children out, especially to a GP practice or hospital (children’s A&E is only at the Leeds General Infirmary), but if you are concerned that a child is seriously unwell you must seek urgent medical advice. GPs are available to speak to during their usual opening hours, on the phone in the first instance, when they will sometimes arrange a video consultation or if appropriate a face-to-face appointment in the practice.
“Out of hours services and children’s A&E at Leeds General Infirmary are also working and parents must not delay seeking help when worried as this could put their child’s health at a risk. Serious illness, such as a severe asthma attack, pneumonia, appendicitis, meningitis or sepsis need to be picked up and dealt with early to prevent complications which could lead to disability or even, in some tragic cases, death.
“If you are concerned that your child, of any age, has the symptoms of coronavirus – a new continuous cough or a high temperature – the advice is the same and you still should not delay in seeking medical advice if worried. Most children, however, will only be mildly affected and recover fully. Babies in particular may not show any symptoms and may not develop a high temperature, but if you are worried that your child is very unwell you must always get further professional advice.”
If it is not an emergency, to avoid spreading illness the advice is to stay at home and use NHS 111 online (111.nhs.uk), if you think illness may be due to coronavirus this still applies in the first instance. If a child is under 5 years old you will have to call NHS 111 as the online service can only be used if a child is over 5 years old, when the website will ask a series of questions.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced a traffic light poster, this has advice for parents during coronavirus so they know what to do if the child starts to feel unwell.