Bronchiolitis: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
posted by Orem Family Medicine | October 14, 2018
Bronchiolitis, a viral respiratory infection that affects the airways, is one of the most common illnesses affecting infants and toddlers. This condition causes mucus build-up that impacts breathing.
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes more than 50 percent of bronchiolitis cases, but bronchiolitis can also be caused by the flu, the common cold and several other types of respiratory viruses.
It’s important for new parents to be aware of the signs of this condition and understand when to seek help for their children.
Because of their small noses and airways, babies ages 3 to 6 months develop bronchiolitis more often than older babies and children. This condition is also disproportionately common in babies who are male, were not breastfed, attend daycare or have older siblings at daycare, live in crowded environments, are exposed to secondhand smoke or were born prematurely.
Bronchiolitis manifests like a common cold, with symptoms that may include:
With mild cases of bronchiolitis, symptoms typically peak after about 24 to 48 hours and then begin to improve, although the total duration of the illness averages about 12 days. More serious symptoms may develop, though, including include high-pitched wheezing sounds with breathing, nostril flaring, rapid breathing and/or heartbeat, lethargy or exhaustion, worsened coughing that leads to vomiting, poor appetite, sleeplessness and irritability.
Although bronchiolitis symptoms are sometimes mild, it can be very serious in babies who were born early, have weak immune systems or have chronic lung or heart disease. If this describes your child, go to the emergency room when the signs of this infection are evident. He or she may need IV fluids and oxygen to treat dehydration and difficulty breathing.
You can treat minor cases of bronchiolitis at home by:
When left untreated, bronchiolitis can lead to serious complications, including apnea, dehydration and cyanosis, so it’s important to seek medical attention if your child experiences serious symptoms or if cold-like symptoms persist for more than two days,
Keep in mind that because bronchiolitis is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective. However, medication to keep the airways open may be recommended if severe symptoms are present.
Parents who are concerned about the risks of a respiratory infection can take steps to prevent viruses from spreading:
Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often
In addition, your doctor may recommend a monthly RSV shot during flu season if your infant is at high risk. It’s especially important to take these protective steps during the winter months when your baby is young.
“Infections: Bronchiolitis.” KidsHealth.
“Bronchiolitis.” Mayo Clinic.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.