english.prescrire.org > Spotlight > Archives : 2010 > Bronchiolitis in infants: parents should exercise caution, but should not panic

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Bronchiolitis in infants: parents should exercise caution, but should not panic

This is a new entry in Prescrire's "Fiches Infos-Patients" series, which delivers information designed for healthcare professionals to pass along to their patients.

Prescrire's new "Fiches Infos-Patients" series covers key subjects of interest to patients, such as cramp, type 2 diabetes, and now infant bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis is often distressing (persistent cough, difficulty in breathing, and wheezing), but in most cases is benign. It generally clears up within 12 days (the cough sometimes lasts longer). In 1 or 2 cases out of 100, the infant has difficulty breathing and lacks oxygen. These severe cases mainly affect premature babies or infants aged under 6 weeks, of low weight, suffering from a chronic pulmonary or cardiac disease, or immunodeficiency.

Those caring for the child have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the air is neither too hot nor too dry, clearing the nose, cutting up food, ensuring the infant drinks plenty of fluids, and keeping an eye open for any signs of worsening that might require another visit to the doctor: too-rapid breathing, refusing food, malaise, etc.

Apart from severe cases requiring hospitalisation, the doctor can prescribe paracetamol to reduce fever. There is no effective drug or vaccine against the virus that causes infant bronchiolitis. Drugs such as antihistamines, vasoconstrictors, cough remedies, cortisone derivatives and bronchodilators have no proven efficacy.

The effectiveness of respiratory physiotherapy has not been proven and it causes around 1 rib fracture per 1000 infants treated. It is better not to use it without due caution.

©Prescrire February 2010

Source: "Bronchiolite chez les nourrissons : pas de panique !" Rev Prescrire 2010; 30 (315): 62.