Diseases & Conditions


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Bronchiolitis


Acute viral infection of the lungs that primarily affects infants and young children. Winter epidemics tend to occur every two or three years, affecting thousands of children in the United States. A virus that may induce only a mild head or chest infection in an adult can cause severe bronchiolitis in an infant. However, with prompt treatment, even the sickest infants usually recover completely within a few days. Infants at greatest risk are those who were born prematurely or those with certain lung diseases. Cause The smaller airways that branch off the bronchial tubes become inflamed, usually because of the RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS (RSV), although other viruses may be responsible. Adult attacks may follow BRONCHITIS brought on by INFLUENZA. The viruses may be transmitted from person to person through airborne drops. Symptoms Cough, shortness of breath, and (in severe cases) blue-purple skin color. A physician can hear bubbling noises in the lungs. A baby or young child with a cold and cough that suddenly gets worse should see a physician. Treatment Sometimes no treatment is needed. In severe cases the child may need to be hospitalized for oxygen and receive respiratory therapy to clear the mucus. Antibiotics and corticosteroid drugs will not work against this viral infection, although antibiotics may be prescribed anyway to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. Sometimes a child may need to be placed on an artificial ventilator until normal breathing returns.