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What is Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is the inflammation and blockages of the smallest airways in babies lungs. There is usually a virus which causes Bronchiolitis. In Isabella's case. This was Respitory Synctial Virus or RSV.

The RSV virus causes the smallest airways in the lungs ( bronchioles) to become damp, inflamed and infected.

This then reduces the lungs capability for air to enter the lungs and this causes severe breathing difficulties.

Bronchiolitis affects young children under the age of 2.

The majority of babies can be treated at home with mild cold like symptoms and will get better in time.

3% of babies with Bronchiolitis are admitted to hospital. The condition is most common between the age groups of 3 to 6 months.

As in Isabella's case the more serious symptoms are in babies which are born prematurely and or with any underlying health condition such as a heart or lung defect.

By the age of 2, most children have had at least one RSV infection, this is usually in the form of a cold and nothing more serious.

The Bronchilitic season normally runs between the months of November to March. However, there are instances where babies have been infected before November and slightly after March. Bronchiolitis is more prominent in the months of November to March. After these time periods the Bronchiolitis and the Virus dies off.

Initial symptoms of Bronchiolitis.

The initial symptoms of Bronchiolitis are very similar if not identical to a common cold.

- A slight temperature. (This was not however the case with Isabella)

- A persistant dry cough. and or wheezing.

- Problems with feeding, vomiting or generally not wanting to feed.

The more severe symptoms are listed below and should be treated urgently by way of attending your local Accident and Emergency.

- Breathing difficulties, shortness of breath linked in with facial discolouring around the mouth and nose turning blue.

- Fast breathing.

- Limbs become floppy, such as arms and legs become none responsive.

- Low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

How is Bronchiolitis diagnosed?

In Isabella's case, a paediatric doctor used a small plastic suction tube and removed a small amount of Mucus from her nose. Within 10 to 20 minutes this was scientifically analysed which confirmed her condition.

Preventative steps to try and reduce Bronchiolitis.

Preventing Bronchiolitis is simply not possible due to the amount of viruses that lead to bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis is extremely infectious.

There is a possibility that if you have any other children or your child has been in contact with any other young children that they may also become infected. A common sense approach is required as always with new born babies especially in circumstances where your baby is premature or has an underlying heart or lung condition.

The following measures can help prevent RSV or other virus's which lead to Bronchiolitis.

- Adults or children who have viral infections to stay away from your baby. (This is especially important in their first 2 months of life if born before 37 weeks.)

- Ensure family or friends who handle your baby washes their hands to prevent passing on any viruses.

- Do not smoke near your baby or take you baby into any circumstances involving a smoky atmosphere, especially cigar smoke.

- Wipe toys and work surfaces down on a regular basis.

- Wash your babies hands specifically after they have been touching their mouth or nose.

- Use disposable tissues rather than a handkerchief and dispose of them immediately.

High Risk Children

In certain cases some children may be entitled to have a monthly vaccine antibody injection. This is if your child is at a high risk of contracting severe bronchiolitis.

This vaccine is called Synagis. The vaccine is given once a month from November through to March. Synagis is a protein antibody which smothers the RSV virus and subsequently kills the virus off.

Synagis is available in certain areas of the country on the NHS providing your child or baby fits into the below criteria.

It is believed that the cost of Synagis is 500 hundred pounds per injection every month.

Children who are considered to be at a high risk are as follows:

- Babies who are born very prematurely. (30 weeks or under.)

- Babies who are born with a heart or lung defect.

- Babies who have a weakened immune system.

In Isabella's circumstances our little girl do not fit into the above criteria. As Isabella was born 6 weeks early at 34 weeks, her lungs would not have developed as of that of a full term baby. In addition to this it is in the final weeks of pregnancy that the mother passes her antibodies to her child so that this assists with the babies immune system.

Synagis is also available from certain pharmaceutical companies throughout the UK. Advice regarding this vaccine should be sought from your doctor to discuss the available options.