By Times-News, magicvalley.com - JULIE A. FERRARO
GOODING — An illness common to infants and young children is once again in season.
Bronchiolitis, caused most frequently by respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a viral infection that usually occurs between November and April, according to Phillip Hager, respiratory therapy director at North Canyon Medical Center.
Affecting the lower breathing passages in children aged 8 weeks to 24 months, bronchiolitis causes inflammation leading to partial or complete blockage of the air passages.
“While many of these viruses look like bad colds in adults, they can present much worse in kids,” said Ryan Turner, a pediatrician with St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. “We see most of our complications in kids under 2 years old.”
Starting as a cold, symptoms of bronchiolitis range from a slight fever and mild, raspy cough to decreased appetite and wheezing or mild problems breathing.
Most children with bronchiolitis have mild symptoms and recover within two to three weeks, Turner said. Within days, though, the breathing can become rapid, with a constant cough and problems eating.
Bronchiolitis usually requires no medical treatment, unless the symptoms become severe.
“Complications from RSV include pneumonia, middle ear infection, repeated infections from the virus and even hospitalization,” Hager said.
Children can contract RSV or other viruses and flu-like illnesses from contact with older children, family members and those who are ill, Hager said. The virus is transmitted when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, or by touching contaminated items then touching the eyes or nose.
“Since there is no vaccine against RSV, it is best to follow good hand washing techniques, keep areas and surfaces clean, avoid exposure to others with the virus, and not share drinking glasses,” Hager said.
Respiratory therapy can assist in the recovery, with treatments such as nebulizers and suctioning relieving labored breathing.
Improving a child’s ability to sleep, eat and drink through respiratory therapy will also decrease the likelihood of dehydration as the illness runs its course.