What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is a lung infection that usually affects babies and very young children.
Two different conditions
Bronchiolitis is a common infection in babies and young children. It should NOT be confused with a very rare condition called bronchiolitis obliterans (even though they share the same name).
Bronchiolitis and its causes.
- How are babies and toddlers affected by bronchiolitis?
- Is my child at risk?
- What causes bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis makes your baby cough and become breathless. This makes it hard for them to breathe and feed.
It usually starts with a runny or blocked nose, and over 2-3 days the small airways (bronchioles) in your baby's lungs get infected, inflamed and clogged up with mucus.
In most cases their breathing and feeding will get better within 5 days. Their cough might take longer to go – usually by around 3 weeks.
“I didn’t realise my child had bronchiolitis”
Clare’s first child, Emma, was 11 months old when she developed bronchiolitis.
Bronchiolitis is common in babies and very small children up to 2 years old. It’s most common in babies between 3 and 6 months.
Some babies and children are at greater risk of developing severe bronchiolitis:
- premature babies
- babies with existing heart or lung conditions
- babies who have problems with their immune system from birth
- children with Down’s syndrome
Exposure to cigarette smoke makes it more likely for the baby to develop bronchiolitis and more likely that the baby will develop a more severe illness.
Your baby is most likely to have bronchiolitis over the winter - between October and March.
Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. The most common virus that causes bronchiolitis is called respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. There are several other viruses that can also cause bronchiolitis.
Not all babies infected with RSV or other viruses will go on to develop bronchiolitis.
Generally speaking children cope better with the viral infection as they get older.
Viruses are spread through the coughs or sneezes of someone who is infected. They can be breathed in from the air or picked up from a surface like skin, toys or door handles. You can help prevent your child from developing bronchiolitis, by taking steps to stop the spreading of viruses.