Bronchiolitis is a nasty lower respiratory tract infection that affects babies under one. My twin boys had it aged just four weeks and one of them ended up in hospital on oxygen and being tube fed for three days. I’m so thankful they were strong, big babies who were born at full term as this helped them fight it. E is nine weeks old and she’s been suffering with it since the weekend. We’re managing to keep her hydrated (just), but her crackly, wheezy chest and her persistent, hacking cough are making her sound so poorly, I just want to scoop her up and cuddle her tight.
This time I am older and wiser, and I have a better understanding of how dangerous the virus is. It is far worse than just a bad cold. It can kill.
Over the last week we’ve called the out of hours GP twice, been to our doctors surgery twice and been to hospital twice. I don’t for a second feel guilty that I’m wasting anyone’s time because this is my daughter’s life we’re talking about and I’m not trained to know whether her two-hour long coughing and screaming fits are putting her oxygen levels dangerously low or not.
I wanted to post about bronchiolitis as it’s something I think new parents should be warned about, especially when their baby is born in what is known as ‘bronchiolitis season’. When my boys started with the symptoms of a cold I didn’t want to bother the GP with something so mild – I swore I wasn’t going to be one of those mums that overreact at everything. But as the days passed, their colds progressed until T2 was struggling to breastfeed or bottlefeed and was whistling with each breath. We went to the GP and were sent straight to hospital. I had never heard of bronchiolitis before, but we were put on a ward full of other bronchiolitis sufferers, including a really tiny baby who was in a small plastic oxygen tent. By this point, T2 looked unbearably poorly with pale cheeks and red, swollen eyes as he lay in his cot attached to machines. T1 had it too, but thankfully he wasn’t quite as poorly so was able to go home again which gave us the complication of one being at home and one in hospital to contend with.
Things haven’t got that bad with E, partly because we’ve been making sure we followed the advice we were given three years ago – feed little and often, elevate the head end of the cot and trust your instincts about calling for help. Trying to get milk into her every hour or two is hard work but it has made a difference - the doctors are happy she’s getting the amount of milk she needs to fight the infection without needing a tube threaded into her tummy.
For some reason, health visitors don’t even mention the condition to new parents (or none of mine ever have) so I thought it was important to write about it and share the common symptoms to look out for:
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Problems feeding or complete refusal to feed
- A temperature (although none of my children had a temperature with their bronchiolitis)
- Sounding congested like they have bad cold
Not all children who have bronchiolitis need to go to hospital, but if you suspect your child has it then it’s worth going to your GP to be checked out. If the symptoms are severe then call your GP/out of hours GP as an emergency or go straight to A&E if you’re concerned. As a parent, you are the best judge of how poorly your child is. It’s not worth taking a risk.
Here are some useful resources about bronchiolitis:
Isabella Grace A website set up by the parents of Isabella Grace, who sadly passed away after just a few weeks of life.
More Than a Cold Read tips on how to avoid bronchiolitis as well as real life stories.
NHS The NHS website is packed full of useful information.
Thankfully E is improving today and she will be better very soon. Not all babies are this lucky. Please share this post and help raise awareness of #bronchiolitis.