Bronchiolitis is an acute lower respiratory tract infection caused by viral infection, primarily by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and young children. It is characterized by inflammation and obstruction of the bronchioles (smaller airways in the lungs) which leads to difficulty in breathing and cough.
Symptoms of bronchiolitis in children typically include runny nose, cough, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and fast breathing. In some cases, the virus can lead to more severe complications such as pneumonia, dehydration, apnea (breathing pauses), and in rare cases, hospitalization. Children under the age of 2, as well as those with underlying medical conditions such as premature birth, heart or lung disease, are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from bronchiolitis.
Bronchiolitis is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
The diagnosis of bronchiolitis is usually made based on the child’s symptoms, physical examination, and chest x-ray. There is no specific treatment for bronchiolitis, the mainstay of treatment is supportive care such as providing oxygen, fluids and nebulized bronchodilators, in severe cases hospitalization may be required.
Prevention measures include:
Washing hands frequently
Avoiding close contact with people who have bronchiolitis or other respiratory infections
Keeping children away from daycare or school when they are sick
Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
RSV prophylaxis (such as palivizumab) can be given to high risk groups of children, under the age of 24 months and born prematurely.
It is important to seek medical attention if a child is showing signs of severe illness, such as difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or cyanosis (bluish color around the mouth or fingers) .