As a pediatrician, I’ve seen a lot of illnesses, and as a mother, I’ve spent sleepless nights with my children battling illnesses. What are the most common culprits? A viral infection of the lower respiratory tract called bronchiolitis.
Bronchiolitis affects the small airways, often causing congestion and discharge, coughing, and sometimes wheezing in young children. All children are susceptible to bronchiolitis. Many viruses can cause bronchiolitis. The most common is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Your baby is at higher risk if they are born prematurely, have heart or lung disease, or are less than 4 months old.
Bronchiolitis affects children in many ways.
Your child may or may not develop a fever with this illness. Call your child’s healthcare team if:
- Your child is less than 6 months old and has a temperature above 100.4 F.
- Your child is over 6 months old and has a temperature above 102.2 F.
- Your child’s temperature has been 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than five days.
- Your child has not received early childhood vaccines and is 2 years old or younger.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking rectal temperatures in children 3 months of age or younger. If your child is 2 months old or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, contact your child’s healthcare team or seek care immediately as this may be an emergency.
changes in breathing
Because of difficulty breathing, your child may appear to be sucking on the neck and rib muscles, or may be breathing faster than usual. Babies, especially newborns and infants younger than 4 months of age, may have prolonged pauses in breathing or stop breathing.
Babies usually breathe through their nose. When their nasal passages become congested, they are unable to breathe through their nose and often have trouble eating. This can lead to poor feeding, which can lead to dehydration and inability to sleep. Although babies may have difficulty falling asleep due to nasal congestion and coughing, the ABCs of sleep are still highly recommended. Always place your baby alone on his or her back in a cot with a flat, sturdy surface and away from smoke.
If your child develops any of these symptoms, he or she will need to be evaluated by a medical team.
Dehydration in babies
Babies and children are particularly susceptible to dehydration. If your child wets less than one diaper every six hours, or the number of wet diapers changes significantly, it may be a sign of dehydration. Babies under 12 months of age should only receive breast milk, formula, or a children’s electrolyte drink to help rehydrate.
changes in skin color or tone
Especially in newborns, young infants, and premature babies, viruses can cause changes in skin color or tone. If your child starts to change color or tone, watch carefully. If they start to look blue or pale, or appear weak or weak, contact their health care team.
Children of all ages typically get six to eight colds in a year. This can happen even in children with healthy immune systems simply because they are exposed to new diseases.
You can do the following:
- Using a cool mist vaporizer can help reduce nasal congestion. Run for 30 minutes with your bedroom door closed before naps, bedtime and throughout the night.
- Suctioning the nose with a nasal saline bulb two to three times a day can significantly reduce nasal congestion, allowing babies to eat and sleep better. Don’t be alarmed if you see a bit of bloody mucus while doing this. This virus can cause irritation, which can lead to bleeding.
- For children under 12 months, have a prepackaged electrolyte drink such as Pedialyte available. For children over 12 months, hydrate with water or an electrolyte drink.
- For infants who are at high risk for severe illness from RSV, discuss RSV vaccination with their healthcare team.
For some people, bronchiolitis comes and goes without serious symptoms. For others, this is not the case. Parents should familiarize themselves with the symptoms so they know the signs to watch for. If you have any questions, please contact your child’s healthcare team.
Christina Andries, DOis a pediatrician in Albert Lea, Minnesota.