It’s autumn. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colors and here at Children’s of Alabama, the gloves and gowns are on for bronchiolitis season.
Bronchiolitis is a viral respiratory illness that affects children under two years of age, most often between November and February. Viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and influenza are the most common causes and full healing could take two weeks or more. The symptoms of bronchiolitis usually follow this timeline:
- Days 1-3: coughing and nasal congestion with low-grade fevers
- Days 4-7: wheezing, difficulty breathing and sometimes poor feeding or vomiting from thick nasal congestion and persistent coughing
- Days 8-14 (sometimes longer): gradual recovery with slowly improving cough and wheezing
If you suspect your child has bronchiolitis, focus on consuming fluids and nasal suctioning. Our suctioning tip: use a couple of saline drops in each nostril followed by bulb suctioning, up to 3 times a day if nasal congestion is severe. This will temporarily clear nasal passages, giving you the opportunity to feed your child and for them to get some much needed sleep. Your child may not want to drink as much as usual, but an ounce or two of Pedialyte every one to two hours can take care of hydration in the short-term.
Despite our best efforts, some children with bronchiolitis require urgent medical care and even hospitalization. Seek medical attention if your child is:
- breathing rapidly (count for 15 seconds – if you count more than 15 breaths, this is a cause for concern),
- breathing with increased effort, especially pulling in under the ribcage or neck,
- not making enough wet diapers (at least one every 6 hours),
- turning blue around the mouth or lips or
- is under two months of age and has a fever (rectal temperature over 100.4 degrees F).