Respiratory infections are the most common reason for hospitalization for children under age 1 and are prevalent in the fall and winter months.
Many children suffer from a respiratory illness known as bronchiolitis. Many people refer to bronchiolitis as RSV, which does cause bronchiolitis; however, many other viruses cause bronchiolitis such as the adenovirus, influenza, and para influenza.
Bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the small airways of the lungs. It usually affects children under age 2, peaking between the ages of 3 to 6 months. Children are at a greater risk for contracting bronchiolitis if they are exposed to cigarette smoke, are younger than 6 months, live in crowded conditions, were not breastfed, and were born prematurely.
RSV and bronchiolitis are very difficult to prevent. Careful attention to hand washing, especially around infants, can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Family members with an upper respiratory infection should be especially careful around infants.
Bronchiolitis can begin as a minor respiratory infection but can develop into increasing respiratory distress with wheezing and a “tight” wheezy cough. The condition can progress to a serious respiratory emergency because it is difficult for the child to maintain his or her breathing.
Antibiotics are not effective against bronchiolitis because of the viral nature of the infection. Supportive therapy such as oxygen, nasal suctioning and rest may be the only treatment needed to weather the duration of the virus.
In the acute phase of bronchiolitis, the complications could be respiratory failure or a secondary infection such as pneumonia.
Extensive studies continue to investigate the relationship between a bronchiolitis infection and the development of asthma. The data is inconclusive at this time; however, some studies indicate a relationship between early childhood respiratory illnesses and the development of asthma.
Tobacco smoke harmful
Asthma is a chronic but controllable disease that affects more than 9 million children in the United States. Controlling asthma requires education regarding medication and avoidance of asthma triggers.
Eliminating tobacco smoke from the home is the single most important thing a family can do to help a child with asthma. Smoking outside the house is not enough. Family members and visitors who smoke carry smoke residue on their clothes and hair, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
Children ages 6-12 can learn how to better manage their asthma at Camp Breathe Ezzzze, May 25-28, at Tishomingo State Park. Hosted by North Mississippi Medical Center, sponsors include United Way of North Mississippi, Project Hope and American Lung Association of Mississippi.
The camp fee is $75, but an unlimited number of full scholarships are available. Camp Breathe Ezzzze teaches children with asthma about proper delivery of inhaled medications, recognition of an impending asthma attack, and how to avoid allergens/irritants. In addition, Camp Breathe Ezzzze offers swimming, hiking, a scavenger hunt, line dancing, arts and crafts, an obstacle course and much more! For more information, visit www.nmhs.net/asthmacamp or call (662) 377-4706.
Kathy Haynes is the respiratory manager for North Mississippi Medical Center Women and Children’s Services and is director of Camp Breathe Ezzzze. She is also a certified asthma educator and actively promotes asthma education throughout north Mississippi.