The ABCs of Pediatric Respiratory Illness: Asthma, Bronchiolitis, Croup

With more than 10 years of experience treating patients at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, Rupal Udeshi, MD, has seen her fair share of respiratory conditions. Each fall, the Pediatric Emergency Center sees many children with symptoms such as cough, fever and wheezing.

Parents sometimes assume that these symptoms are signs of pneumonia, a type of lung infection that is typically treated with antibiotics. Pneumonia is one possibility, but there are other common childhood illnesses that also need to be considered. Dr. Udeshi explains the ABCs of pediatric respiratory illness:

Asthma is a condition that causes difficulty breathing. It is typically treated with inhaled medication and, sometimes, with steroid medication in tablet or liquid form. These medications help to open up the airways. Children are at increased risk for asthma if they have a family history of the condition, are exposed to second-hand smoke, or have environmental allergies.

Bronchiolitis is a type of lung infection most common in children under 2. This illness can cause cold-like symptoms such as coughing, fever and wheezing. Bronchiolitis can’t be treated with antibiotics. Some patients benefit from receiving oxygen to ease breathing or IV fluids to help with dehydration. In these cases, the child may be admitted to the hospital for a short stay.

Croup is a viral illness that is associated with a barky, seal-like or high-pitched cough. Symptoms can appear suddenly. Croup is most common in children under 6. Doctors sometimes prescribe inhaled medication to reduce inflammation and ease breathing. Croup may be treatable at home or may require a short hospital stay.

If your child is experiencing difficulty breathing along with fever, dehydration or abdominal pains, Dr. Udeshi recommends bringing him or her to the Pediatric Emergency Center right away. You should also bring

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