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