Bronchiolitis is a common cause of respiratory distress during the winter months in babies, particularly those under 6 months of age.
This page gives general information about causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention in at risk infants.
It is an illness that causes respiratory distress (breathing problems) in infants, particularly those under 6 months.
Signs you may see of respiratory distress in your baby include:
Babies will often also have poor feeding.
It is usually caused by a virus called RSV, or Respiratory Syncitial Virus. Occasionally, other viruses, such as parainfluenzae or human metapneumovirus, may cause a similar illness. Bronchiolitic epidemics occur in the winter months.
A baby will often have a mild fever and a runny nose for a couple of days. Then he will develop cough and difficulty in breathing. You will see some signs of respiratory distress as he breathes.
Sometimes babies are unable to feed properly because they are having so much breathing difficulty. Feeding takes energy and when babies are struggling to breathe they have no energy left for feeding.
In most cases, no specific treatment is necessary.
These babies are generally admitted to hospital.
No. Most babies will have minor symptoms and will get better by themselves. Only babies who have a lot of difficulty breathing or feeding will need to be admitted.
Your baby may need hospital care if:
There are some treatments that in some cases prevent RSV Bronchiolitic hospital admissions, (for example, Palivizumab). However, these medicines are not straightforward to give, and decisions regarding their use need to be made by the pediatric specialist.
They are best reserved for infants who have been born prematurely and who have chronic lung disease.
Yes. However, as we get older, the infection generally causes less severe symptoms. Older children who get RSV often get symptoms of the common cold.
Yes. It can cause wheezing (asthma). If there is not a history of asthma in the family, most children will 'grow out' of their wheezing tendency by the age of 13 years. If there is a family history of asthma, the asthma symptoms are likely to continue longer.
Make sure your baby avoids passive smoking. Exposure to tobacco smoke really exacerbates respiratory symptoms in babies.
Last reviewed 5 June 2011
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