Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the small airways of the Lungs. It is usually an illness of small children under 2 years of age. Several different types of viruses can cause it, but the most common virus is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus otherwise known as RSV.
Children acquire the viral infection from siblings or parents with colds, from daycare centers and from other public places. The illness is most common in the fall and winter months.
Initially Bronchiolitis starts off as a typical cold with a runny nose, mild cough and a fever. Within a few days, wheezing may develop along with more rapid breathing and difficulty eating.
If your child develops any signs of difficulty breathing such as wheezing, breathing very fast, using extra muscles to help him/her breath (if you can count their ribs sticking out or see their chest pulling in) call your doctor’s office immediately.
If your child is diagnosed with Bronchiolitis the doctor may try a breathing medicine called Albuterol to help open up the small airways of the lungs. Albuterol may or may not decrease your child’s symptoms since it has variable effects in patients with Bronchiolitis. Albuterol can be given by mouth or inhaled through a special device called a spacer or aerochamber. After the doctor examines your child, he/she will best be able to determine if Albuterol is appropriate for your child and which is the best way to administer it.
The illness typically last 7 to 10 days, but the period where you may notice difficulty breathing usually lasts 3 to 5 days. The doctor may want to recheck your child in the office to make sure they are getting better. Approximately 5% of children with Bronchiolitis will require hospitalization. These are usually children who require oxygen or very frequent breathing treatments.
Children who have Bronchiolitis are at a slight increase risk for having childhood Asthma, especially if there is a family history of Asthma.