DefinitionBronchiolitis is a viral disease of the lungs most common in young children. The virus causes swelling airways in the small airways of the lungs, called bronchioles, and a buildup of mucus in the airways. This can make breathing more difficult and lead to coughing and wheezing.
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CausesBronchiolitis is caused by one of several different types of viruses. These viruses are easily spread from person to person like a common cold. It is passed most easily through droplets of moisture that are released into the air with coughs or sneezing. These droplets may be inhaled by others or land on common surfaces like counters and doorknobs. A healthy person can pick up the virus by inhaling it in the air or coming in contact with the virus on surfaces then touching their face.
Risk FactorsBronchiolitis can affect anyone, but is most common in children under the age of 2 years old. It is also most common during the winter season.Factors that may increase a child's risk include:
- Premature birth
- Exposure to environmental pollution including second hand smoke
- Weak immune systems
- Child care attendance or older siblings that attend childcare or schools
- Congenital abnormalities of the heart or lungs
- Severe neuromuscular disease
SymptomsAt first bronchiolitis will have the same symptoms as a common cold. This may include stuffy or runny nose, cough, and mild fever. After a few days, the cough will worsen and breathing rate will increase.Symptoms may include:
- Wheezing or crackling noises when exhaling
- Abnormal breathing patterns, such as using abdominal muscles to help move air, widening nostrils, or grunting while breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Sunken chest
- Lack of interest or difficulty in eating or drinking which may lead to dehydration (tearless cries, less urinating or fewer wet diapers, dry mouth)
- Bluish tint around lips or fingertips
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