Bronchiolitis + RSV

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What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the tiniest airways in your child’s lungs causing them to become swollen, which can make it difficult for them to breathe. Its more common in babies and small children up to 2 years old and is typically caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is normally seen in the winter months from October to March, peaking in December and January.

Usually, bronchiolitis only causes mild cold like symptoms, such a runny nose and cough, with most children getting better on their own.

Further symptoms can develop and some children, especially young ones under 6 months, children born prematurely, or those with long term lung and other pre-existing medical conditions can develop more severe symptoms and may need to be admitted into hospital for further treatment.

Preventing bronchiolitis

It is difficult to prevent bronchiolitis, which can be spread by coughs and sneezes, but there are steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of catching it and help prevent spreading. You should:

  • Wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently.
  • Wash or wipe toys and surfaces regularly.
  • Keep your child at home until their symptoms improve.
  • Keep newborn babies away from people with colds and flu.
  • Make sure your child is never exposed to tobacco smoke as it can seriously damage your child’s health and make breathing problems like bronchiolitis worse.

What are the symptoms?

  • Your child may have a runny nose, cough and sometimes a temperature.
  • After a few days, your child’s cough may become worse.
  • Your child’s breathing may become faster than normal and may become noisy.
  • In young children it may cause brief pauses in their breathing (Apnoeic episodes).
  • Sometimes it may take more effort for your child to breath, and they may not be able to take their usual amount of milk.
  • Your child may be sick after feeds and become irritable.
  • You may notice fewer wet nappies than usual.

For further information, please read our leaflet here.