Bronchiolitis is a prevalent form of lower respiratory tract infection that affects infants and young children below 2 years old.
Most cases are relatively mild and settle without requiring treatment in 2-3 weeks, but some with severe symptoms require hospitalization. The initial symptoms strikingly resemble the common cold such as cough and a runny nose. Additional symptoms later arise over the next days which includes:
- Difficulty feeding
- Persistent, dry cough
What is the cause?
Bronchiolitis is brought about by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that spreads if an infected person sneezes or coughs.
If exposed, the bronchioles become infected and inflamed. This inflammation lessens the amount of air that enters the lungs which causes difficulty breathing.
Management of bronchiolitis
Even today, there is no available medication to eliminate the virus responsible for bronchiolitis, but it typically settles within 2 weeks without requiring treatment. Many children can be treated at home the same way as common cold such as:
- Ensure that the child is given enough fluids to prevent dehydration
- Infants can be given a fever-reducing medication if needed.
It is important to note that some infants who end up with bronchiolitis during the initial year of life requires hospitalization due to the potential for serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing. This is likely to occur among premature infants and those born with a lung or heart condition.
The condition is hard to prevent but there are measures that can lessen the risk of acquiring the disease as well as help prevent the virus from spreading.
The preventive measures include:
- Regularly wash hands
- Wipe or wash toys and surfaces regularly
- Sick children should stay home until the symptoms improved
- Make sure that newborn infants are not exposed to individuals sick with the flu or common cold
- Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke
In some cases, children at high risk for severe bronchiolitis might be given a monthly injection of antibodies that work by reducing the severity of the infection.