🎶 Baby it's cold outside - Bronchiolitis


When I worked back in the UK years ago, the months of October to February were FULL of bronch babies.

No exaggeration, our ward could be 50% sneezy, wheezy newborns at times, some in head box oxygen ( I don’t know if they even use that anymore?), all with nasal prongs and all puffing away like steam trains.

It’s a difficult time, and there seems no end. It is absolutely terrifying for the parents and not too nice for the babies either!

Bronchiolitis is an infection in the chest, which is caused by a viral infection in the lungs. This viral infection is usually RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

It cause inflammation and mucous build up in the airways, making it hard to breathe. It is most common in young babies under 6 months, but can also occur a bit later.

Because it is a viral infection, medicines do not usually help with Bronchiolitis.

Feeding can be difficult for a young baby with bronchiolitis. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly they get tired because they are working so hard with their breathing and often can’t breathe through their nose properly due to blockage. Babies are not natural mouth breathers.

Secondly, if you fill a baby up with milk, their stomach presses on their diaphragm which makes breathing even harder, so small frequent drinks are better than large volumes.

Sometimes, if a baby is hospitalised with bronchiolitis, we need to stop feeds altogether and keep hydrated with intravenous fluids, or we use a little tube that goes in the tummy from the nose, to drip feed small frequent feeds.

In the early days, you should avoid contact with others as the RSV virus is contagious.

Signs and symptoms

  • noisy breathing

  • wheeze

  • fast breathing

  • skin under the neck sucking in

  • ribs sucking in

  • nostril flaring                                                           


  • head bobbing in young babies

  • difficulty feeding

  • fever and irritable                                                       

Tests are not always necessary to diagnose bronchiolitis, as the symptoms are usually quite clear to the doctors.

If they need admission to hospital, it is usually just for supportive measures such as observation, oxygen and fluids.

Mild symptoms of bronchiolitis can be treated at home, but there are some cases when you should get urgent help.

They are -

  • If your child was premature

  • is younger than 10 weeks old

  • has an underlying health condition like neurological, cardiac or are  immunocompromised

  • or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

After seeking medical attention for your babies bronchiolitis, you can easily care for the baby at home. Here is some things that can help.

Saline nasal drops are helpful for easing nasal congestion.

Small frequent feeds are better than large filing feeds.

Make sure the nappies are frequently wet.

Make sure your baby has plenty of rest

If the symptoms get worse, the child is lethargic or reluctant to feed, take them back to your GP the same day.

Go to your nearest emergency department if your child is -

  • Having trouble breathing, has irregular breaths or changes colour when coughing.

  • Can’t feed due to coughing

  • Goes pale and sweaty

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