What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the small airways in the lungs of babies usually under the age of 6 months. However, sometimes it can happen up to the age of 12 months, and even 3 years of age.
This viral infection starts out with the same symptoms as the common cold, but can become worse over the next couple of days. The peak time for symptoms to be at their worst is at the day 2 and 3 mark. Symptoms can then last for a week to 10 days. The worsening of symptoms includes wheezing, having a tight cough, rapid breathing and difficulty breathing.
The reason for these symptoms is because there is swelling and inflammation along with the production of mucus in the bronchiole tubes in the baby’s airways. Because their airways are quite small to begin with, this swelling and mucus production on the insides of the tubes of the airways it quite significant, and thus makes it difficult to breath.
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When babies have difficulty breathing, it can also make it hard for them to feed, as they tire easily. This results in babies not having their usual amounts of fluids, whether it is via breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Because of this decrease in fluid intake, and the loss of fluids that can occur with rapid breathing, babies are at risk of dehydration. Ways for caregivers to assist and try to maintaining babies hydration levels when they are suffering from bronchiolitis is to increase the amount of times feeds are offered, therefore babies will have smaller amounts of fluids, but more often. The aim of this is increased amount of feeds is keeping hydration levels adequate. If babies are unable to maintain their fluid levels and are becoming dehydrated, you should seek a medical help.
Dehydration can present in the following ways, decrease in urine output, dry mouth or sunken eyes.
In hospital, babies can be given additional fluids either via an intravenous line, or via a nasogastric tube.
Babies can also suffer from severe respiratory distress. If your baby is having a real difficulty with breathing, or if their lips become blue at all, you should seek urgent medical help. Some babies may require additional oxygen to assist them in these times.
Points to note regarding bronchiolitis.
• Because a virus causes bronchiolitis, antibiotics do not help in this situation. Some medications that may be of assistance can include baby paracetamol, using the dosage guide on the bottle, to help reduce fevers and increase comfort for your baby.
• Bronchiolitis can be spread very easily via coughing or snot, so please try and keep contact with other babies and their families to a minimum.
• Nebulizers, vaporizers and steam machines have not been shown to assist in any way for babies suffering from bronchiolitis.
• And finally, remember that babies can tire and dehydrate quickly, so be observant and seek medical help when required.