Bronchiolitis (not to be confused with bronchitis) is an inflammation by a virus of the small respiratory passages in the lungs (bronchioles). It is a wheezing respiratory illness that affects infants and toddlers, usually two to twenty-four months of age. The child usually has a cold in addition to a cough and wheezing and breathes fast and has to work harder than normal to exhale. Several viruses cause bronchiolitis. One you may hear about is called RSV; which stands for respiratory syncytial virus. Many of the children admitted to hospitals with severe wheezing illness have RSV.
Bronchiolitis can be mild or severe. Some children become short of breath and have to work hard to breathe. They cannot comfortably eat or rest and become exhausted from the exertion of breathing. Most children with bronchiolitis do well and can be treated at home; about one in twenty require hospitalization to carefully monitor the breathing status. There is also a new medication that can prevent RSV infection in high-risk babies, such as those with underlying chronic lung disease; unfortunately, it has to be given by monthly injection during the flu season. Because bronchiolitis can occasionally lead to significant respiratory problems, it is important to contact your doctor or nurse practitioner so she can help you monitor your child's symptoms. Most children are better in seven to ten days, but a few may wheeze with succeeding colds.
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