Bronchiolitis is a prevalent form of lower respiratory tract infection that affects infants and young children below 2 years old. Most cases are usually mild and settle without requiring treatment within 2-3 weeks, but some children develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization.
The early indications of bronchiolitis are strikingly similar with common cold such as cough and runny nose. The other symptoms that manifest over the next few days include the following:
- Slightly high fever
- Difficulty feeding
- Dry and persistent cough
- Rapid or noisy breathing
When to seek medical care
Most cases are not serious but a doctor should be consulted for the following:
- If worried about the child
- There is difficulty breathing
- Had less than half the amount usually taken during the last 2-3 feedings or had a dry diaper for 12 hours or more.
- Child has a persistent fever
- Child appears irritable or tired
The doctor might be able to diagnose the condition based on the symptoms of the child and assessment of breathing.
It is important to call for emergency assistance for the following:
- Child has severe breathing difficulty and sweaty or pale
- Child has long pauses in breathing
- The tongue or lips appear bluish
What are the possible causes?
Bronchiolitis is brought about by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which spreads via tiny droplets of liquid from a cough or sneeze of an infected individual.
The infection causes the small airways in the lungs to become inflamed and infected. Take note that the inflammation reduces the amount of air that enters the lungs, thus making it hard to breathe.
There is no available medication to eliminate the virus responsible for bronchiolitis but the infection eventually settles within 2 weeks without requiring treatment. Many children can be treated at home in the same manner as managing common cold.
Ensure that the child is given enough fluids to avoid dehydration. You can even provide infants with ibuprofen or paracetamol to lower down the temperature if the fever is causing discomfort.
It is hard to prevent the condition but there are measures that can help minimize the risk for acquiring it as well as prevent the spread of the virus such as:
- Regular washing of hands
- Wipe or wash toys and surfaces regularly
- Infected children should stay at home until the symptoms settled
- Newborn infants should not be exposed to individuals with the flu or common cold
- Prevent the child from being exposed to tobacco smoke
Some children who face the risk for developing severe bronchiolitis might be given antibody injections monthly to limit the severity of the condition.