Offered by Dr. Ellen McCormick, Premier Pediatrics
Every winter brings cold and flu season, and kids and grandparents are often the people most affected by these illnesses. A well known and common winter virus is RSV, or Respiratory Syncitial Virus, the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children.
Almost everyone gets RSV at least once, and it is possible to get it more than once. For many, it may be very little different from other cold viruses, especially with a repeat infection. For infants affected for the first time, however, the lung inflammation RSV causes may result in low oxygen levels because of swelling in the small airways, called bronchioles. These babies may wheeze, struggle to breath, and have retractions. The skin between the ribs and above the breastbone dips in when the child takes a breath. This combination of cold symptoms, wheezing, respiratory distress, and low oxygen level is the classic picture of bronchiolitis. A chest xray can help to confirm the diagnosis, but is often not necessary.
One or two of every 100 children with bronchiolitis will require hospitalization for supportive care, and to monitor for possible development of pneumonia. Babies in the first six months of life, especially premature babies, are at the highest risk of more serious illness. Avoiding exposure to crowds and anyone with respiratory infection is the most important way to prevent infection. Adults with COPD can also get RSV and develop acute worsening and low oxygen levels.
If your infant or toddler has a cold and develops wheezing, poor color, or fast breathing, he or she should be seen for care promptly, and monitored until better to assure that the oxygen level remains adequate and to watch for possible development of pneumonia.
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