Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus which most of us have actually had. The majority of kids will have contracted it by the age of two. Older children and adults who contract RSV will usually only suffer from symptoms which are similar to a normal cold. These symptoms can include headache, sneezing and a cough.
So why is it an issue?
The problem is that young children have little or no resistance to RSV. This can result in them falling foul to more impactful symptoms. It is important to note that adults or older children with weakened immune systems, lung or heart disease can also suffer from more serious symptoms.
What’s happening right now?
Levels of RSV being reported in Ireland in October 2021 are significantly higher than other years. These levels include 101 cases reported in week 39 (week ending 3rd Oct) and 150 cases reported in week 40 (week ending 10th Oct) and 222 in week 41 (week ending 16th Oct). Approximately 93% of cases reported were in the 0-4 year age group. This % will change each week and is only up to date on 22/10/21
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 stream allowing healthy bodily function to continue. Bronchiolitis occurs when infection affects the bronchioles. RSV infection can cause inflammation and irritation of the bronchioles which can make it difficult for your little baby to breathe.
As RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis I am going to highlight what you need to know about it.
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)
The Treatment of Bronchiolitis
Bronchiolitis is similar to the common cold in that there is no direct treatment, so the focus is on treating the symptoms. It usually clears up by itself within about two weeks. In most cases lots of minding and some extra attention at home is enough action to take.
Advice if you suspect bronchiolitis
- Check on your little one regularly – it’s one of the only times I advise setting an alarm at night to actually wake up! Check to make sure they are ok and their breathing isn’t too fast or labored.
- 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.
- Ensure your child is fully hydrated – to know the signs read my 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.
- 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! Guidance also states that 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 Medisana Humidifier 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 bronchiolitis
Ok so there isn’t an awful lot you can do! It’s a virus so sometimes they will just catch it no matter how much you try to protect them! It’s no harm to practice the following tips (which we are all great at since the Pandemic hit!) to help to reduce the risk:
- Frequent hand washing of everyone in household – including baby, siblings and parents/minders.
- Regularly cleantoys.
- Wipe surfaces often.
- Keep newborn babies away from people suffering from a cold or the flu when possible
When to see the Doctor
- Any difficulty breathing
- Insufficient 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 they are experiencing drowsiness or if they are only awake after a lot of stimulation or 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!