Bronchiolitis primarily impacts infants under 2, presenting as a prevalent respiratory infection. It is a mild condition and can be manageable at home, although it does have the potential to become severe.
It is important to note that bronchiolitis should not be confused with bronchitis, characterized by a cough accompanied by copious mucus and can affect individuals of all ages.
In the initial stages, bronchiolitis shares common early symptoms with a cold, including sneezing, a congested or runny nose, a cough, and a slightly elevated temperature of around 38°C.
As the condition progresses, a child with bronchiolitis may experience additional symptoms.
- Rapid or accelerated breathing
- Difficulty with feeding or eating
- Audible breathing sounds, characterized by wheezing
- Increased irritability
The primary cause of bronchiolitis is a viral infection, typically triggered by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is highly prevalent and quickly spreads through coughs and sneezes. The estimation is that nearly all children have been infected with RSV by age two.
While RSV may cause a cough or cold in older kids and adults, it can lead to the development of bronchiolitis in young children.
Specific treatment options for bronchiolitis are limited, and the condition typically resolves independently, allowing for at-home care for your child.
However, it is essential to note that bronchiolitis can sometimes be severe, requiring hospital treatment.
- Administer children’s paracetamol to babies and children over two months old or ibuprofen over three months old. Avoid giving aspirin to children under 16.
- Consider using saline drops made of saltwater if your child’s nose is congested.
- Please keep your child upright as much as possible while awake; this can help improve their breathing.
- Encourage your child to consume ample fluids. Opt for smaller, more frequent baby feeds, while older children can have extra water or diluted fruit juice.
- Please refrain from smoking around your child, as it can exacerbate their symptoms.
- Avoid attempting to lower your child’s temperature by sponging them with cool water or removing all their clothing.
You can take several preventive measures to reduce the risk of your child developing bronchiolitis or spreading the viruses responsible for it.
- Regularly washing your hands as well as your child’s hands.
- Cleaning and sanitizing toys and surfaces frequently.
- Using disposable tissues and promptly disposing of them after use.
- Keeping newborn babies away from individuals with cold or flu symptoms, mainly if they are under two months old or were born prematurely.
Additionally, it is crucial to refrain from smoking in the vicinity of your child. Exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases the likelihood of children developing bronchiolitis.
Reviewed by-Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 03 June 2023