Did you know that the viruses that cause colds (acute upper respiratory tract infections) in children and adults cause a completely different disease in children under 2 years of age? In infants and toddlers, infections with common cold viruses produce a lower respiratory tract infection called bronchiolitis. In the wintertime, bronchiolitis is the leading cause for admission to most children’s hospitals in the U.S.
One virus in particular, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, is responsible for many cases of bronchiolitis. In addition to fever and runny nose, children with bronchiolitis have trouble breathing and develop wheezing. In some cases the symptoms are so severe that hospitalization is required.
What are the signs and symptoms of bronchiolitis? Like older children with colds, infants with bronchiolitis often develop fever, cough and runny nose. Wheezing allows the healthcare provider to differentiate bronchiolitis from the common cold.
When should you call the doctor? Fast rates of breathing accompanied by wheezing or decreased drinking occur in many infants. Infants who become lethargic, develop sucking in of the ribs or the abdomen, flaring of the nostrils or grunting with each breath should be evaluated immediately by a healthcare professional. Infants who do not produce at least one wet diaper every 8 hours should also be evaluated.