Bronchiolitis is a medical term used to describe an infection in a part of the lungs called the bronchioles. When the bronchioles get infected they get swollen and full of mucus making it more difficult to breathe. The most common cause of bronchiolitis is the respiratory syncytial virus or “RSV.” Bronchiolitis tends to affect children younger than 2. It is spread easily from person to person through the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes. It commonly occurs in the Midwest between January and March.
Bronchiolitis tends to start off with symptoms like a cold including stuffy nose, cough, and fever. As symptoms worsen parents may notice their children wheezing (musical noise when breathing), worsening cough, refusal to eat or drink, and an increase in trouble breathing.
There are some things you can do to help your child at home. Make sure your child is getting plenty of fluids. Using a humidifier in your child’s bedroom will help them breathe easier. Use ibuprofen or Tylenol to help with any fevers your child develops. Suction the excess mucus from your child’s nose using a suction bulb. Have your child sleep in a reclined position if possible. This can be accomplished using a wedge under the crib mattress or a car seat. Sleep in the same room as your child so you know if they have trouble breathing right away.
Call your child’s nurse or doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms or have concerns about the following:
-nostril flaring when your child takes a breath
-your infant is less than 3 months with a fever greater than 100.4
-your child, older than 3 months, has a fever greater than 100.4 for more than 3 days
-the skin between your child’s ribs starts to cave in when breathing
-your infant has fewer wet diapers than normal
Your doctor may order a test for RSV which is done by swabbing the inside of the nose. Treatments options include oxygen, breathing treatments, or steroids depending on the severity of the infection. Antibiotics are normally not used since antibiotics only work against bacteria and not viruses.
To help prevent your child from getting an infection by RSV make sure your entire family is washing their hands with soap and water often. Get a yearly flu shot. Avoid secondhand smoke. Make sure to stay away from others who might be sick. Be smart—this cold and flu season.