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Omron nebulizer - what is bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a condition in which the bronchioles in the lungs swell and become inflamed due to a viral infection. Bronchiolitis in babies is most common.

What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is a condition in which the bronchioles – the smallest airways in the lungs – swell and become inflamed due to a viral infection. Bronchiolitis is found in children under 2 years old, and most common in babies between 3 and 6 months of age. Children with a history of bronchiolitis are likely to develop asthma later in life, too.

Bronchiolitis should not be confused with bronchitis which is more common in older children and adults.

Symptoms

Bronchiolitis symptoms are similar to those of a common cold in the beginning, such as blocked nose, runny nose, cough, and – rarely – slight fever. After a week as the symptoms of bronchiolitis worsen, the child with bronchiolitis will have a difficulty breathing. Other signs and symptoms of bronchiolitis also include wheezing, fast and shallow breathing, laboured breathing, vomiting and blue skin, especially on the lips and fingernails. Bronchiolitis usually last for two to three weeks.

Causes and risk factors

The cause of bronchiolitis is viral infection. In most cases, bronchiolitis is caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The outbreak of RSV infection occurs in the winter. Other viruses like those that cause the flu or a common cold can also be a bronchiolitis cause.

Children are at risk of having bronchiolitis because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, causing the viruses to spread more easily among children than adults. Other risk factors for causing the immune system to weaken in children and making them more prone to viruses include:

  • Prematurity
  • Underlying heart condition or lung condition
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Not being breast-fed
  • Physical contact with infected children
  • Living in a less ventilated environment

Treatment

Bronchiolitis treatment is aimed at easing the symptoms, because there is no treatment for neutralizing the viruses. Children with mild bronchiolitis symptoms can be treated at home, while treatment in the hospitals are meant for those with severe symptoms.

Bronchiolitis home treatment can be done by a parent of the child patient and include the following:

  • Staying upright to ease the patient’s breathing
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Keeping the home environment moist, possibly by using a humidifier, and with comfortable temperature
  • Ensuring a smoke-free environment to prevent the lungs from getting irritated
  • Taking fever relievers for infants and young children, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, with exceptions to aspirin, antibiotics and corticosteroids
  • Using a nasal suction device or a nasal aspirator to remove excess mucus and relieve a blocked nose
  • Using hypertonic saline, which is tested to be safe and effective in infants, for reducing the bronchiolitis symptoms. Hypertonic saline can be taken through inhalation, using a nebulizer.

Treatment of bronchiolitis in the hospital for treating patients with severe bronchiolitis symptoms include the following:

  • Receiving extra oxygen if low levels of oxygen in the blood are present
  • Feeding via a nasogastric tube if the child experiences a difficulty eating or drinking

References:

  1. Knott, L. (2015, November 26). Bronchiolitis. Retrieved from Patient: https://patient.info/health/bronchiolitis-leaflet
  2. Lenney, W., Boner, A., Bont, L., Bush, A., Carlsen, K.-H., Eber, E., . . . de Benedictis, F. (2009). Medicines used in respiratory diseases only seen in children. European Respiratory Journal, 34(3), 531-551.
  3. National Health Services. (2015, October 9). Treating broncholitis. Retrieved from NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bronchiolitis/Pages/Treatment.aspx
  4. Ralston SL, Lieberthal AS, Meissner HC, et al. (2014). Clinical practice guideline: The diagnosis, management, and prevention of bronchiolitis. Pediatrics, 134(5), e1474-e1502.