Infant Bronchiolitis: causes, symptoms and treatment

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Infant Bronchiolitis: causes, symptoms and treatment
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Bronchiolitis is a viral infection which is very contagious and affects about 30% of infants under 2 years old each year in Britain.  In general, more than half of these children are under 6 months old.  This infection is more common in boys, children who have not been breast fed and people living in crowded places. 

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is often the cause of this infection.  It takes about 5 to 10 days to cure this infection which infects the tiny airways that lead to the lungs, called the bronchioles.

Here are some of the main symptoms of bronchiolitis:

  • congested nose,
  • episodes of dry and heavy coughing that get progressively worse,
  • breathing difficulties, wheezing,
  • moderate fever,
  • tiredness…

The cough can last two to three weeks if the child isn’t seen to quickly.  If you notice symptoms appearing consult your doctor so that it can avoid any urgent breathing complications which could lead to urgent hospitalisation.

What advice should you follow?

If the child has bronchiolitis take the opportunity to air your child’s room when they are not there for 10 minutes per day.  Wait until the temperature in the room has reached 19°C again before your baby returns to the room.

If one of the parents or children in your toddler/parent group has a nasal infection it is recommended that you wear a mask to avoid any transmission of the virus to an infant under the age of two.

You can also disinfect the infant’s nose with saline solution if it is clogged. You should also keep your child at home when they have infectious and contagious symptoms (fever, cough, diarrhea …) Watch their breathing, temperature and feces.

What treatments are there?

After a lung auscultation of the child and possible lung x-rays, the doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and establish a personalised prescription depending on the case.

Using saline solution is generally advised several times per day but antibiotics are rarely prescribed to an infant under the age of two.   Respiratory physiotherapy can be prescribed to help the child breathe better. Nowadays this type of physiotherapy is the main mode to treat bronchiolitis because it allows bronchial secretions in the the baby’s body to evacuate through movements on the child’s rib cage and abdomen.


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