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Bronchiolitis

    • What is bronchiolitis?

      Bronchiolitis in babies and children

      Bronchiolitis is a common viral chest infection which occurs in infants and young children. The infection causes inflammation, mucous accumulation and narrowing of your child’s airways, making breathing difficult. Common viruses which cause bronchiolitis include respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, and influenza.

    • What are the causes of bronchiolitis in children?

      Generally, bronchiolitis is caused by a virus called respiratory syncytial virus. However, it may also be caused by other viruses like adenovirus, influenza, rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, and human metapneumovirus. In rare cases, bronchiolitis may also be caused by bacteria.

      A child has a higher risk of bronchiolitis if they were born prematurely, has chronic heart or lung diseases, or has a weakened immune system due to a recent illness.

      Recovery period for bronchiolitis

      Your child may continue to be unwell for 7 – 10 days. As they recover, the cough can continue to persist for up to 4 weeks. It’s also possible for your child to get bronchiolitis again, as there are many viruses that can cause bronchiolitis. 

      Preventing bronchiolitis

      Your child contracts viruses if they breathe in infected droplets in the air or touch objects with infected droplets from other persons who are unwell. Avoid close contact with persons who are unwell.

      Your baby can also get the flu vaccine to protect them from more contagious flu strains from the age of 6 months. This should be repeated on a yearly basis.

      Ensure that your home is a smoke-free environment. Infants exposed to cigarette smoke are at increased risk of bronchiolitis.

    • What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis in children?

      During an episode of bronchiolitis, your child may show common flu-like symptoms like clogged or runny nose and mild cough in the initial few days. Around the fourth to fifth day, the following symptoms of bronchiolitis may develop and worsen:

      • Rapid breathing
      • Noisy breathing with wheezing sound
      • Difficulty in breathing
      • Difficulty in eating or drinking
      • Irritability and fever

      Your child may continue to feel sick for up to 10 days. The cough may last for up to 4 weeks.

  • How is bronchiolitis in children diagnosed?

    Bronchiolitis is often diagnosed on clinical examination by your doctor. Blood tests, nasal swabs and x-rays are usually not required for diagnosis.

    You should bring your child to a doctor if they display any of the following symptoms:

    • Wheezing
    • Hard or fast breathing with recessions in the ribcage muscles, flaring of the nostrils or bobbing head motions in younger children/in babies
    • Irregular breathing or pauses in breathing
    • Increased lethargy
    • Refusal to drink
    • Change in facial colour (pale, blue or turning red on coughing)
  • How is bronchiolitis in children treated?

    Since bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not indicated and will not treat viruses. Other medications such as nebulised adrenaline, or steroids are also not useful in bronchiolitis.

    If your child has mild symptoms, allow them to have sufficient rest for recovery. Feed your child small but frequent fluids to keep them well hydrated. It is normal for your child not to be able to finish a full formula feed at a go. Split feeds into half and shorten the time interval between feeds.

    You can use saline drops or nasal sprays to keep the nasal passage clear so that your child will be more comfortable.

    If your child is refusing to feed, breathing hard or fast or becoming lethargic, they may need to be admitted for closer monitoring. Your child may require additional treatments such as oxygen, nebulised saline or supplemental fluids through a drip.
     
    Speak to a paediatrician to find out more about your child's condition and treatment options available.

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