New bronchiolitis guidance aims to reduce hospital admissions

NEW guidance from NICE on the diagnosis and treatment of bronchiolitis in children is aimed both at reducing anxiety among parents and cutting antibiotics prescribing.

The new quality standard recognises the importance of providing parents and carers with key safety information so they know how to keep their child comfortable at home and when to seek help. Bronchiolitis usually settles without the need for treatment, and the use of over-the-counter cold medicines can ease symptoms.

The standard states that breathing and feeding will usually get better within five days although a cough may take up to three weeks to go. It lists red flag symptoms parents and carers should look out for, such as disrupted breathing, exhaustion or the skin inside the child’s lips turning blue.

More than 39,300 babies and young children were admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis in England last year. The infection is caused by a virus – usually the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – which cannot be treated with antibiotics, but studies in UK hospitals have shown that antibiotics are still being given to young children for bronchiolitis.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: "Bronchiolitis can be a very nasty illness for babies and young children - and very distressing and alarming for their parents.

"But most babies and young children with bronchiolitis do not require antibiotics and this guidance will help reassure parents that in the majority of cases the condition can be effectively managed at home.

"It will also support GPs and their teams who are working hard to reduce antibiotic prescribing so that they are only given to our younger patients when they really need them."

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