We can tell by the paramedic’s voice on the radio if a child is truly sick. This time his voice has that urgency that says “be ready.”
Moments later they come trundling in, oxygen cylinders hissing, monitors beeping, and the little baby in the big stretcher struggling to breathe, chest heaving. Into the trauma room, baby is lifted onto the ED bed, trailing monitor wires. Nurses and techs move in, changing oxygen tubes, starting IVs, hooking up monitors, putting on stethoscopes.
After a brief talk with the parents and a quick exam of the baby, I see that the baby has Bronchiolitis. The breathing treatments we give have little effect- baby still struggles to breathe. Baby is admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for IV fluids, oxygen, and monitoring. She will get better eventually, but it will take time and care.
Bronchiolitis is a common winter ailment for infants and toddlers. Many people recognize this ailment when it is called RSV, but the RSV virus is only one of the many viruses that can cause it. Bronchiolitis starts as a cold, with runny nose and cough. In some little kids it progresses to fever, wheezing (a whistling sound from low in the lungs), and trouble breathing.
Bronchiolitis is one of those frustrating illnesses where modern medicine offers little to stop its progression or ease its distress. Plenty of fluids help, maybe a vaporizer at the bedside, and Tylenol for fever and comfort. Sometimes nebulizer treatments help, but like in our case above often they don’t.
The good news is that most babies with Bronchiolitis just have a bad cold. The treatment for that is described in the “Colds in Babies” category, which you can access from the Categories column on the right side of this page. A few babies wheeze like an asthmatic and need more attention. Very few babies need to be in the PICU and it is rare for one to die.
So if your baby has a cough and runny nose but is breathing and drinking comfortably, all is well. Start the vaporizer and Tylenol, maybe have your baby sleep sitting up in a car seat or swing (no propping on pillows!). If you think baby is wheezing or tugging for breath, or is having trouble sucking a bottle for its work of breathing, come right in and see us.