Bronchiolitis...or is it asthma?

Bronchiolitis is a common chest infection in the first year of life which causes wheezing. It is often confused with asthma.

Bronchiolitis is most frequent at this time of the year, in autumn and winter. It begins as a head cold with a runny nose, fever, and cough. Over the next few days the cough gets worse, the breathing becomes faster and a wheezing (whistling) sound develops in the chest as the baby breathes out.

The wheezing usually lasts two or three days. At this stage, the infection looks similar to asthma. However, most babies with bronchiolitis only have it once and do not develop asthma.

How to treat bronchiolitis

The infection usually settles over about seven to ten days. Antibiotics do not help as the infection is caused by a virus. High fever and discomfort can be treated with paracetamol. Give the baby extra fluids.

Sometimes asthma medicines such as salbutamol or terbutalene are used to open the airways and help the wheezing, but these are not usually effective under the age of one.

When to see the doctor

Come to the surgery if:

  • The baby has difficulty breathing or feeding
  • The baby is getting dehydrated (dry)? Are there as many wet nappies as usual?
  • The baby becomes pale, sweaty or blue around the lips
  • You are worried at any time.

Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.

Source: Autumn 2000 Edition | Page 4

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