There are different causes of viral bronchiolitis and bronchiolitis obliterans.
Causes of viral bronchiolitis
Viruses that enter and infect the respiratory tract cause viral bronchiolitis. Viruses are microscopic organisms that can reproduce rapidly and challenge the immune system. The following are common types of viral infections that may cause bronchiolitis:
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis. RSV usually strikes children by the age of 2, but is most common in babies less than 1 year of age. This contagious and dangerous viral infection produces inflammation, mucus, and swelling in the airways.
These viruses target mucous membranes. They cause about 10 percent of acute respiratory tract infections in children.
These viruses cause inflammation in the lungs, nose, and throat. Influenza affects both adults and children. It’s especially dangerous for babies who don’t have strong immune systems.
Causes of bronchiolitis obliterans
This rare condition sometimes occurs for no known reason. Severe cases can lead to death if they’re left untreated. A few causes have been identified and include:
Viral bronchiolitis affects children up to 2 years old. But it generally occurs in infants 3 to 9 months of age. A few risk factors for viral bronchiolitis in babies and young children are:
Common risk factors for bronchiolitis obliterans in adults are:
Both viral bronchiolitis and bronchiolitis obliterans have similar signs and symptoms. These include:
After exposure to certain chemicals, bronchiolitis obliterans symptoms can appear within two weeks to a month. A lung infection can take several months to several years to produce symptoms.
There are several ways to diagnose both types of bronchiolitis. Imaging testing, including chest X-rays, helps doctors diagnose bronchiolitis. A common tool used for adults is spirometry. This measures how much and how quickly you take in air with each breath. Arterial blood gas tests for both bronchiolitis types measure how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are in your blood.
Samples of mucus or nasal discharge can help your doctor diagnose the type of virus causing the infection. This testing method is common with babies and small children.
Viral bronchiolitis requires different treatments than bronchiolitis obliterans.
Treatments for viral bronchiolitis
Many cases of viral bronchiolitis are mild and clear up without treatment. For more severe cases in infants, hospitalization may be necessary. A hospital can provide oxygen, a nebulizer, and intravenous fluid treatments. Antibiotic medications don’t work against viruses, but some medications can help open your baby’s airways.
Treatments for bronchiolitis obliterans
There’s no cure for the scarring of bronchiolitis obliterans. Corticosteroids can help clear the lungs of mucus, reduce inflammation, and open up the airways. You may need oxygen treatments and immunosuppressant medications to regulate your immune system. Breathing exercises and stress reduction can help ease breathing difficulties. Sometimes a lung transplant may be the best option in the most severe cases.
Recovery from both conditions requires extra rest and increased fluid intake. Keeping the air in your home clear of smoke and chemicals is very important. A humidifier to keep the air moist may also help.