More than a cold

Kids and colds, eh? Unpleasant, annoying, but not serious, right? Well, not always…

When my third child was born, my older two were in nursery and Reception school. We had  almost five years of parenting under our belts, and snotty noses and hacking coughs were a part of everyday life. The first days of his life were no exception. He was doing the school run with me twice a day before he was a week old, and when, at three weeks, he developed a runny nose, I was mildly concerned but entirely unsurprised.

Even a day or two later, when – with no temperature, and not noticeably distressed – his breathing had become noisy enough to hear over the sound of the car engine and he was reluctant to feed, I wasn’t scared, but was worried enough to take him to the doctor.

The doctor took one look at him and sent us straight through to be admitted to the children’s ward. He had bronchiolitis, an infection of the small airways in the lungs, which is very common but can be very serious, especially in young babies.

We were told on arrival that he was so ill that a transfer to a bigger hospital with a specialist unit might be necessary, but he responded well to oxygen and being fed through a tube and recovered after a few days, though he did suffer with chest problems until the age of three. Although he was very young, he had been born at full term and was thriving until he developed bronchiolitis. For babies born prematurely, or with existing health conditions, things can be much worse.

I wish I had known then what I do now, especially what to look for – even as a third-time mum, I had only heard of bronchiolitis in passing, and genuinely didn’t know it was something we should be aware of, especially during the winter months when it is most common.

A friend of mine, whose twin sons were born several weeks early and were very ill with bronchiolitis, is involved with a campaign –  More than a cold  – which seeks to raise awareness.  If you have a young baby, or know someone who does, please take a few minutes to check out their website, especially their tips on prevention. Of course, it’s impossible to entirely prevent the spread of germs, but it is worth being mindful of the risks to young babies of coming into contact with people with colds.

It’s also worth remembering FACT: – symptoms which need prompt medical attention if a baby develops them.

  • Fast breathing: shallow, quick breaths not taking in much air
  • Appetite: inability to feed
  • Cough: distinctive rasping
  • Temperature: high temperature will usually accompany cold-like symptoms of a runny nose

One in three babies have bronchiolitis in their first year, and most of the time it is not serious. The chances are that my older two children had it, and that we thought it was nothing more serious than a cold (which, for them it wasn’t). There’s more information here, on the NHS website.

Having a newborn can be scary enough at the best of times, and I don’t want anyone reading this to be frightened. I do want to help try to help other families avoid the experience of seeing one of their children so very ill.


2 thoughts on “More than a cold

  1. Maxi had this, he nearly died. He was ventilated in great Ormond street, we very nearly lost him. At 3 months old and in the middle of summer too! Thankfully we trusted my intuition and the OOH doc was amazing and saved his life.

    1. Sorry that you had an awful experience too. It is amazing how many parents I now know have had young babies very ill in hospital with this – hopefully the message is starting to get out about how to minimise the risks and how to be aware of the warning signs.

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