What is Bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is an acute viral respiratory condition that affects mostly children between 6 months to 2 years of age. The virus causing the illness often triggers common cold symptoms like irritation of the upper airway and the nose. Narrowing of bronchioles (or tiny airways) and inflammation can also occur. Bronchiolitis is a seasonal illness which presents itself mainly between the period of November and April and differs from Bronchitis in that the latter often influences larger airways.
The condition can be triggered by numerous viruses however, the RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus is usually responsible. The virus is extremely contagious with almost all children being infected by it at some point. While some develop lower airway conditions like pneumonia or bronchiolitis, while most will only be affected by common colds.
At the onset of bronchiolitis, children will experience slight coughs, runny nose and low fevers over a period of one to three days. After this period, coughing becomes deeper and raspier, breathing becomes shallow, noisy and rapid and wheezing can occur. Symptoms will depend on the severity or extent of the infection. During infancy bronchiolitis can disrupt feeding because infants tend to be agitated and restless. The loss of appetite should improve as the condition clears. Most times there is no need for hospitalization or special medication. Hospitalization is needed in cases where infants experience severe symptoms.
Monitor children’s breathing, feeding habits and other activities, make note of changes that could indicate this or any condition. Breathing can be aggravated by constant crying and fussiness so it is important to keep infected children as calm as possible. Increased liquid intake is recommended to prevent dehydration; pairing liquids with a humidifier will also help with eliminating secretions.
Some decongestants or cough syrup/medications that can be bought over the counter (OTCs) are sufficient. Antibiotics will not change the course of the illness nor will it lessen the time but they can be prescribed if the condition is accompanied by another infection. An oral bronchodilator can be used as well. Bronchodilators work by dilating the bronchioles and bronchi, this decreases airway restriction to facilitate air flow.
Children with RSV can spread the virus extensively through secretions. The virus can easily be passed on from humans as well as inanimate objects. Wash hands regularly, both before and after handling baby and sanitize areas that come in contact with mucous or secretions to control transmission.
Bronchiolitis is seldom a permanent condition when contracted by infants and children although some 30 percent (or more) will develop asthma or asthma related difficulties at a later stage in life. It is possible that the airway damages caused by RSV increases the risk of developing wheezing or asthma but RSV’s real contribution to this is unknown.
Bear in mind that although most cases can be treated at home, due to the victim’s age it is best to consult a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms occur or if mild symptoms being to worsen. Gain approval before administering any medication (including OTC) to avoid complicating the issue.