A diagnosis that we make a lot during the winter months is Bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is an infection or inflammation of the smaller airways in our lungs, called bronchioles. It usually caused by a virus. Any virus can cause bronchiolitis, but the most common is RSV. Bronchiolitis occurs in the Northern Illinois area between November and April and is a disease of children ages two years or younger.
Symptoms include wheezing, a coarse cough that can sound like rice krispies crackling in milk, vomiting after coughing hard, fever, stuffy and/or runny nose, nostrils flaring, decreased appetite and pulling in of the skin of the chest or stomach while breathing (retractions). Usually, it starts like a cold and then goes to the chest.
Treatment may be as simple as suctioning the nose/mouth frequently and using a humidifier. Some children need nebulizer treatments, using albuterol with or without a steroid, to help open up their airways. Other children need admission to the hospital, because they need oxygen or they are becoming dehydrated (due to difficulty eating and drinking).
Prevention includes good hand hygiene and limiting exposure to large groups of people who may be sick. Some preemie babies can receive a shot to help prevent RSV infection. This shot is given monthly throughout the RSV season. Call your doctor if your child is struggling to breathe, breathing rapidly, taking shallow breaths, looks dusky around the mouth, etc. Breathe easy this winter!