What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is a viral condition characterised by the swelling of the small airways. It is most commonly seen in children but in rare cases can develop in adults. Bronchiolitis is usually a self-limiting condition and improves after 2-3 weeks.

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?

The most common symptoms of bronchiolitis are:

You should take your child to the doctor immediately if you notice symptoms such as:

What are the causes of bronchiolitis?

The most common cause is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), to which more than half of the babies are exposed during their first year of life. This virus spreads by coming into direct contact with the secretions of the nose and throat of the person with the disease. It can be spread by coughing or sneezing, or touching the same objects

The following factors increase a person’s risk of developing the condition:

  • being younger than six months
  • being exposed to cigarette smoke
  • living in crowded conditions
  • being born before 37 weeks of gestation
  • not being breastfed

Can bronchiolitis be prevented?

Bronchiolitis cannot be prevented in most cases since the viruses that cause it are highly prevalent and difficult to avoid. You can reduce the chance of your child catching the virus by:

  • washing your hands regularly after every meal
  • not smoking in the home
  • disinfecting surfaces and toys from time to time

What is the treatment for bronchiolitis?

As the infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective in tackling the condition. After 2-3 weeks your child should be able to fight off the virus and symptoms will largely disappear. In the meantime, treatment aims to relieve symptoms, and consists of taking the following measures:

  • drinking plenty of liquids
  • getting plenty of bed rest
  • not letting anyone smoke in close proximity

If your child is having trouble breathing, it is important to get immediate medical attention. Emergency treatment may involve oxygen therapy and taking fluids through IV drip.