By Christina Johns
Your child is sick. It starts with a cough and runny nose and quickly develops into something resembling a common cold, but it’s more than that. So what is it? A common viral infection of the lungs in babies and toddlers called bronchiolitis.
While bronchitis and bronchiolitis sound similar, they are not the same. Both are infections of the lungs, but bronchiolitis goes deep into the lungs causing inflammation of the small airways (bronchioles), which for small children can result in a serious cough, wheezing, trouble breathing and can be scary stuff for parents.
What information do parents need to know about bronchiolitis to keep their children healthy?
First, bronchiolitis is caused by a variety of viruses, but is most commonly attributed to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). It can also be caused by the flu or the common cold. Bronchiolitis can often be treated from home because it is caused by a virus it does not respond to antibiotics. Help make your child feel better by maintaining adequate hydration by offering clear liquids in small amounts frequently throughout the day, use a cool-mist vaporizer in his/her room, administer saline drops and bulb syringe suction the nose to relieve nasal congestion, and give fever reducer medicine to bring down any fevers and ease discomfort.
Decrease the chances of getting bronchiolitis the same way you would protect your child from getting a cold: frequent hand washing, sanitizing of toys and areas where your child plays, keeping your child home from daycare (if possible), and getting your child (six months or older) a flu shot can all help.
For some children, bronchiolitis may require more attention. If your child develops a cold and has a bluish-gray color to the face, lips or nails, or is flaring the nostrils or retracting the muscles between the ribs be sure to see an emergency pediatrician immediately. This is particularly important for children who were born prematurely, are less than three months old, are exposed to secondhand smoke or have pulmonary defects or other chronic diseases.
Dr. Christina Johns is a practicing pediatric emergency physician and the Senior Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics, the largest provider of specialized urgent care in the nation with more than 30 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia and opening soon in California. Visit Dr. Johns on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Read her blog at DearDrChristina.com.