Lifestyle and home remedies
Although it may not be possible to shorten the duration of your child's illness, you may be able to make your child more comfortable. Here are some tips to try:
- Humidify the air. If the air in your child's room is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds. Another way to humidify the air is to run a hot shower or bath in the bathroom and let it steam up the room. Sitting in the room holding your child for about 15 minutes may help ease a fit of coughing.
- Keep your child upright. Being in an upright position usually makes breathing easier.
- Have your child drink. To prevent dehydration, give your child plenty of clear fluids to drink, such as water or juice. Your child may drink more slowly than usual, because of the congestion.
- Try saline nose drops to ease congestion. You can purchase these drops over-the-counter (OTC). They're effective, safe and nonirritating, even for children. To use them, instill several drops into one nostril, then immediately bulb suction that nostril (but don't push the bulb too far in). Repeat the process in the other nostril. If your child is old enough, teach your child how to blow his or her nose.
- Use OTC pain relievers. OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help relieve a sore throat and improve your child's ability to drink fluids. Never give your child aspirin. It's associated with a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome. Don't give OTC cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 2.
- Maintain a smoke-free environment. Smoke can aggravate symptoms of respiratory infections. If a family member smokes, ask him or her to smoke outside of the house and outside of the car.
Because the viruses that cause bronchiolitis spread from person to person, one of the best ways to prevent it is to wash your hands frequently — especially before touching your baby when you have a cold or other respiratory illness. Wearing a face mask at this time is appropriate.
If your child has bronchiolitis, keep him or her at home until the illness is past to avoid spreading it to others.
Other commonsense ways to help curb infection include:
- Limit contact with people who have a fever or cold. If your child is a newborn, especially a premature newborn, avoid exposure to people with colds in the first two months of life.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys and doorknobs. This is especially important if a family member is sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Then throw away the tissue and wash your hands or use alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Use your own drinking glass. Don't share glasses with others, especially if someone in your family is ill.
- Wash hands often. Frequently wash your own hands and those of your child. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy for yourself and your child when you're away from home.
- Breast-feed. Respiratory infections are significantly less common in breast-fed babies.
Vaccines and medications
There are no vaccines for the most common causes of bronchiolitis (RSV and rhinovirus). However, an annual flu shot is recommended for everyone older than 6 months.
Infants at high risk of the RSV infection, such as those born very prematurely or with a heart-lung condition or a depressed immune system, may be given the medication palivizumab (Synagis) to decrease the likelihood of RSV infections.