Infants generally suffer more from bronchiolitis than bronchitis. Bronchiolitis is a special case where the tiniest and smallest air passages in the baby’s lungs, called bronchioles, get filled with mucus and become swollen.
It is most common during the winter months.
It is most often caused by a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Other viruses associated with bronchiolitis are rhinovirus (common cold virus), influenza (flu), and adenovirus. Apart from these, bronchitis is also known to be caused by bacterial infections, allergies, and irritants such as cigarette smoke, fumes, and dust.
It also passes easily with touching. The virus is known to live on hands and on normal surfaces for up to six hours, hence practising good hygiene around your baby is a must. Wash your hands with warm water and soap before touching your baby and also, keep him away from people suffering from cold.
The following can be the most common symptoms for bronchiolitis / bronchitis:
- Symptoms of cold like a sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, chills, mild fever (up to 101 Fahrenheit)
- Coughing – dry, or greenish-or-yellow-mucus producing; the baby may vomit or gag while coughing
- Chest pain, breathlessness, and wheezing
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Retractions – when the regions below the ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck sink in as a child inhales
- Rapid heartbeat
- Irritability coupled with lethargy and signs of fatigue
- Poor appetite, decreased peeing and decreased passing of stool
- Blue lips and fingernails
When these symptoms are too severe or their occurrences are too frequent, one should visit a doctor to seek professional help. Some strong symptoms could be:
- Dehydration – no wet nappy for six hours or more
- Dry lips and mouth
- Body temperature rises above 100.4 Fahrenheit if is your baby is under three months, and above 102.2 Fahrenheit if he is under six months
- The baby was premature at birth or has had lung or heart problems since birth
- The baby has a weak immune system
However, most often, cases of bronchiolitis are not too serious and can be treated at home. One can use some of these remedies to treat the infection:
- Humidify the air – Get rid of dry air in your child’s room with a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air. Keep your humidifier clean at all time to disallow the growth of bacteria and molds.
- Steam therapy – Humidify the air by running hot shower in the bathroom and letting it steam up the room. Sit with your baby inside the bathroom. This would ease his coughing problems.
- Keep your child upright – as it helps him in breathing. Make sure his head doesn’t fall forward.
- Have him drink clear fluids like water, juice, or gelatine water to prevent dehydration.
- Use saline nose drops to get rid of blocked noses. However, make sure you use the ones which have been strictly prescribed for infants.
- Maintain a smoke-free environment as it can aggravate respiratory illnesses.
- Use OTC pain relievers to relieve sore throat pains but make sure the drugs are child-safe. Never give your child aspirin. Consult your paediatrician before administering drugs.
- Once he is over 6 years old, you can administer him an annual flu shot too
Bronchiolitis may in some severe cases cause future complications like wheezy chest or cough. Asthma and other breathing problem have also been linked to childhood instances of bronchiolitis. In some instances, it can also develop into pneumonia.