A common lung infection in young kids and babies starts out with symptoms similar to those of a common cold but can then progress to difficulty breathing. Here's what that might look like.

By Maressa Brown
November 07, 2019
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

It's cold and flu season again, which means it's time for important heads-up about bronchiolitis, a common lung infection in young children and infants, which causes inflammation and congestion in the small airways (bronchioles) of the lung. It's most commonly caused by a virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and it starts out with symptoms similar to those of a common cold but then progresses to coughing, wheezing, and sometimes difficulty breathing. As RSV sends 60,000 kids under age 5 to the hospital every year, parents would do well to note the warning signs.

Last year, a mom and blogger named Charlie O’Brien shared a video of her daughter Luna breathing in a labored way. This year, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) has shared a similarly powerful clip of a baby girl named Kaylan to raise awareness about the infection.

The hospital explained in a statement that Kaylan was 6 months old at the time the video was taken, and her father Kip decided to record her labored breathing to send to his wife to check if it was normal. Strangely enough, at that very moment, Kaylan's twin sister Avery had been admitted in the Children’s PICU being treated for RSV, so Kip's wife was with Avery. A CHOA nurse checked out Kip's video saw and advised that Kaylan come to the hospital immediately.

According to the hospital, the twins' mom was coming down with a cold herself at the time, so when Kip got to the hospital with Kaylan, he walked up to the nurses station at CHOA and said, "Can I tell my wife to go home for the night, and y’all help me with these two girls for the night?" Recounting the experience, he said, “They could not have been more supportive and willing to jump in! The entire team too! It was so reassuring to my wife, and to myself.”

Earlier this week, CHOA shared the clip of Kaylan to their Facebook page noting, "Parents and caregivers of little ones, please watch. Cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are on the rise. If you see labored breathing that looks like this, contact your child’s doctor immediately. RSV can be more than a cold, and knowing the warning signs can be lifesaving."

In general, the Mayo Clinic notes that the following signs and symptoms are reasons to seek prompt medical attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Audible wheezing sounds
  • Breathing very fast — more than 60 breaths a minute (tachypnea)  — and shallowly
  • Labored breathing — the  ribs seem to suck inward when infant inhales
  • Sluggish or lethargic appearance
  • Refusal to drink enough, or breathing too fast to eat or drink
  • Skin turning blue, especially the lips and fingernails (cyanosis)
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