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Post by AlleyRose on Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:21 pm

Usually caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, bronchiolitis tends to affect small children and can cause severe breathing difficulties.

Key points

  • Usually caused by the respiratory syncitial virus (RSV).

  • Signs and symptoms include runny nose, mild fever and cough which quickly turns into varying levels of distress and difficulties in breathing.

  • Usually lasts 7-10 days.

  • Can cause severe breathing problems and may require oxygen and intravenous fluids in hospital.

Bronchiolitis affects small children generally aged under six months but it can occur in children aged up to one year.
It happens when a viral infection causes narrowing of the smallest airways in the lungs, the bronchioles.
This narrowing makes it difficult for air to move through these tubes, reducing the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs and causing breathlessness. It can be frightening for all concerned.
The condition is usually caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Bronchiolitis is related to the small physical size of the airways in babies aged under one year, so it is not commonly seen after this age.

Signs and symptoms
Initially, your child will show signs and symptoms of a viral infection, with runny nose, mild fever and cough which quickly turns into distress and difficulty in breathing.

  • You'll see very fast breathing along with a wheezing sound.

  • You may also notice that your child's chest movements are jerky and drawn in with each breath.

  • Your child will be working hard to breath.

  • Sicker children may be lethargic or appear tired and uninterested in eating.

Course and duration
The illness usually lasts for 7-10 days, and is at its worst around day 2-3. It rarely lasts for longer than this, but your child may still have a slight persistent cough for some weeks afterwards.

Spread of infection
This condition is predominantly a problem for other children in the same age group (i.e. children younger than one year). The virus that causes bronchiolitis is usually spread by droplets from the respiratory tract of an infected child, who is in the early stages of the infection. The virus is more common in children attending day care nurseries.

Infectious period
Children are infectious from a couple of days before they start showing symptoms until their breathing is normal again. It can take from a few days to a week before a child shows signs of the disease after being infected.

Bronchiolitis can cause severe breathing problems and may require oxygen and intravenous fluids in hospital.
Ill children may be unable to eat or drink as they are working so hard to breathe.
Bronchiolitis is a more serious condition in children with pre-existing problems, such as another lung disease or heart disease.

Any child with breathing difficulties should be seen by a doctor. Since bronchiolitis only occurs in the smallest children, seek a medical opinion at the first signs of breathing trouble.
A small child with bluish lips and fingers and breathing difficulties needs URGENT medical attention.
Except for supportive treatment with oxygen and fluid replacement if required, there is no specific treatment for bronchiolitis and antibiotics won't work as the condition is caused by a virus.
The more serious cases will be admitted to hospital for oxygen and intravenous fluid support.
Feeds, including breast feeds, should be small but frequent to avoid tiring a baby with some respiratory difficulty who should rest as much as possible.

Good general hygiene with proper hand washing will help to prevent the spread of viruses. Avoiding others with coughs and colds can reduce the infection risk. Smoking in and around the baby's area will worsen any respiratory condition in children.

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