The bronchioles are small little airways in your baby’s lungs. The lungs are vital in delivering the right amount of oxygen to your baby’s blood steam allowing healthy bodily function to continue. Bronchiolitis occurs when infection affects the bronchioles. The most common cause of this infection in the respiratory synctial virus (RSV). This viral infection causes inflammation and irritation of the bronchioles which can make it difficult for your little baby to breathe.
Shockingly by the age of two almost 50% of children will have had bronchiolitis caused by RSV. It mostly affects younger babies who are between three to six months of age and about one third of cases will occur before one year of age.
It is another lovely treat from Winter time as most cases occur between November and March, and unfortunately children can suffer from it more than once each Winter. It is spread like other viral infections through the coughs and sneezes of infected people as it is present in the tiny water droplets in their breath.
The symptoms of bronchiolitis:
The symptoms of bronchiolitis usually peak between 3-5 days and usually resolve within about 2-3 weeks.
- Runny nose
- Cough – Persistent and dry.
- Mild fever (in approx 30% of cases)
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor feeding (especially after 3-5 days of the illness)
Bronchiolitis is similar to a cold in that there is no direct treatment to kill the virus, its really about treating the symptoms. It usually clears up itself within about two weeks and in most cases lots of minding and some extra attention at home is enough action to take. To ensure your child is comfortable and safe I advise the following:
- Check on your little one regularly – it’s one of the only times I advise setting an alarm at night to actually wake up and go to make sure they are ok and their breathing isn’t too fast or laboured.
- Feed your baby in the upright position to facilitate easier breathing.
- Treat any nasal congestion using a saline nasal spray before a feed as described in my congestion blog by clicking here!
- Ensure your child is fully hydrated – to look out for signs of dehydration have a read of my blog of top tips by clicking here! I also have some little hints about how to get your toddler to drink dioralyte which is useful for the older kids – you can check it out by clicking here!
- Check their temperature if you suspect it may be high and treat them as necessary – To learn more about how to treat a temperature click here!
- Keep smokers away from your child – passive smoking can irritate the symptoms of bronchiolitis.
- As bronchiolitis is caused by a viral infection there is no point in using an antibiotic to treat it so don’t be disappointed if one is not prescribed – it genuinely wouldn’t help and over use of antibiotics may cause resistance. If you would like to learn more about antibiotic resistance check out the HSE’s information page by clicking here! Steroids are also not currently recommended to treat bronchilitis (Jan 2016)
- Use a vaporiser or humidifier to help soothe the airways. You can also add moisture to the air by running the hot shower in the bathroom and letting the steam build up – then (keeping your baby away from the hot water!) grab a cushion and sit on the floor reading stories and breathing in the steamy air!
- I do prefer the Beurer Air Humidifer to a steamy bathroom as it runs for 12-14 hours so is ideal for over night use when the symptoms of bronchiolitis are at their worst!
Tips to prevent bronchilitis:
Ok so there isn’t an awful lot you can do…it’s a virus so sometimes they will just get it no matter how much you try to protect them but its no harm to practice the following tips to help to reduce the chances:
- Frequent hand washing of everyone in household – including baby, siblings and parents/minders.
- Frequent cleaning of toys.
- Frequent cleaning of surfaces.
- Keep newborn babies away from people suffering from a cold or the flu when possible
When to see the doctor:
- If they are having difficulty breathing
- If they are not taking sufficient fluids (50% of their normal feeds over the last 2-3 feeds is advised by the NHS in the UK)
- If they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more
- They are very tired or irritable. If you find your little one is asleep much more than normal and is only awake after a lot of stimulation or if they are not responding to your interaction in the way which they normally do.
- They have a temperature which is not coming down after treatment with paracetamol or nurofen when appropriate – see my temperature blog by clicking here.
Seek urgent medical treatment by calling 112 or 999 if:
- Your baby is having severe difficulty breathing and is pale or sweaty.
- Your baby has blue lips or a blue tongue.
- If your baby has long pauses in their breathing.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!
Nice Guidelines – Bronchilitis in children June 2015