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Bronchiolitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a respiratory infection affecting the small airways of lungs called bronchioles. It is generally a mild and self-limiting viral infection.

Bronchiolitis: Incidence, age and sex

Bronchiolitis is chiefly encountered in young children with a high incidence during infancy. Boys are usually more inclined to be afflicted as compared with girls.

Signs and symptoms of bronchiolitis: Diagnosis

The clinical symptoms of bronchiolitis may mimic those of common cold making it difficult to diagnose. Mild cough, nasal congestion and fever are commonly observed. These symptoms may disappear in a few days or may even progress to wheezing and rapid breathing, along with further worsening of the cough. At times, the child may become lethargic or may not feed properly. The respiratory physician may hear abnormal lung sounds on chest auscultation. The doctor may also like to conduct some investigations like x-ray of lungs and pulse oximetry to evaluate the structural changes and functioning of the lungs.

Causes and prevention of bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a viral infection caused most commonly by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Other viruses like rhinovirus, influenza and parainfluenza viruses have also been implicated in causing small airway infections. The infection leads to swelling of the airways along with mucous pooling in them. This results in clinical symptoms of cough and breathlessness. Children with premature birth are more susceptible to be afflicted with bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis: Complications

Bronchiolitis is a mild infection which may seldom result in complications. But in occasional instances, this infection may deteriorate, resulting in reduced oxygen flow in the lungs and the body tissues. This may present as bluish discoloration of the lips, the skin or the nails and called cyanosis which demands immediate medical attention. Other complications like dehydration or superimposed secondary bacterial infection, may also be seen in rare instances.

Bronchiolitis: Treatment

Bronchiolitis is a self-limiting infection which usually does not need any medications. Symptomatic relief may be provided by antipyretic drugs which eliminate fever, and nasal saline drops which diminish nasal congestion. It is advisable to give plenty of fluids to the affected child which helps in preventing mucous pooling in airways. Moreover, spraying of cool mist vaporizer in the child’s room has also given good results. Severe infection may need hospitalization for adequate hydration and oxygen therapy. The prognosis of bronchiolitis is good showing rapid and complete recovery with no relapses.