What is it?
Bronchiolitis is the medical word for “viral infection in the lungs of babies up to 6-12 months old” There are many many viruses so we rarely check to see exactly which one it is. They can catch the viruses from anywhere as they spread in droplets in the air (usually from older snotty siblings!) Many babies will get bronchiolitis one or more times in their first winter.

What happens when your baby has bronchiolitis?
It usually starts with upper respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose or sniffily nose (like a cold)

Usually after a few days the virus spreads in to the lungs causing lower respiratory symptoms such as:
– NOISY BREATHING: wheeze, rattly chest, congested nose
– HEAVY BREATHING: breathing very fast, sucking in under the ribs, using the tummy to breath quickly, sucking in at the neck with each breath, head bobbing up and down with each breath

This can lead to:
– POOR FEEDING: breathlessness with feeds, becoming very upset when trying to feed
– LESS WET NAPPIES: because of the poor feeding
Bronchiolitis tends to get worse on the 2nd or 3rd day of the lower respiratory part of it and can last up to 7-10 days, the cough can last longer. While your baby is unwell try to keep them away from other babies as it can be contagious
Babies who are more likely to become very unwell are:
– less than 1 month old
– premature babies
– babies with lung, heart or any severe medical condition
These babies should be seen by a doctor early on in the illness

How can we treat it?
Unfortunately we can’t treat Bronchiolitis. There is no treatment for these viral infections.
What we can do is help with the symptoms, so sometimes these babies come in to bronchiolitis print hospital for help with their oxygen levels, for breathing support or for feeding support. We help them with the symptoms until their body fights the virus on its own
What can you do?
Of course if you are concerned or your baby has signs of heavy breathing and / or poor feeding you should take them to a doctor. If you have experienced Bronchiolitis before or it’s very early on in the illness there are a few things you can do that might help:
– Give smaller feeds but more often
– Have breaks during the feed
– For older babies, give small amounts of fluids often, they may be off their solids
– Over the counter nasal saline drops or vaporisers can help with the congestion
– Keep baby in a smoke free environment (regardless of if they have Bronchiolitis or not)
– Immunise baby and all household members (regardless of if they have Bronchiolitis or not) – bronchiolitis and whooping cough is not a good combination
– If parents / carers, older siblings or visitors have a definite cold or viral infection ask them
to cough/sneeze away from the baby and in to tissues, wash hands after coughing / sneezing and before touching the baby or objects that might touch the baby
Hope this helps!!
Dr. Nelu x


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