In 2018, Mom Charlie O’Brien, who’s also a life and confidence coach from the U.K., shared a video of her baby breathing unnaturally. She posted it on social media to serve as a warning and reference during the season of “the dreaded season of nonstop colds, coughs, and viruses.”
“When Luna was 4 weeks old, she had a really quiet day of sleeping and barely any crying,” Charlie wrote, noting that it was unusual for her daughter. “I was watching her sleep next to me and realized it didn’t look right,” the mom said.
She unbuttoned her daughter’s onesie and saw the area under her ribs sink or cave in as the child struggled to breathe.
“Sucking in at ribs is a sign to get your baby or child to the hospital,” Charlie stressed.
Many moms lauded Charlie for sharing the video and doctors said it was easier to see than describe in words that type of labored breathing in infants and young kids.
Luna was diagnosed with bronchiolitis, and she had low oxygen levels. Bronchiolitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a common respiratory tract infection in children aged 2 years or younger. It’s caused by a virus that infects the bronchioles, or small breathing tubes that carry air in the lungs. These tubes make the baby’s breathing difficult when they get swollen. Bronchiolitis is also contagious and can be spread through direct contact.
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The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to a common cold: runny and stuffy nose, cough, and sometimes a slight fever. And then it progresses into a tight cough and wheezing. Your child may have trouble eating or keeping his food down due to the cough. Observe also if your baby is becoming lethargic.
The most worrisome symptom of bronchiolitis, as Charlie illustrated through the video, is when you notice your child’s breathing has become rapid. He is using the muscles in his neck, between the ribs, and below the rib cage to breath. It is a red flag that your baby may not be getting enough oxygen. (The same type of difficulty in breathing coupled with wheezing is similar to an asthma attack).
This labored breathing in kids, especially in babies younger than 6 months, warrant immediate medical attention. Contact your doctor and head to the hospital as soon as you can. It’s even more crucial to seek urgent medical care if your baby has a high fever, is lethargic, or his skin color turns pale or blue. Infants with severe breathing problems may need medication to help open their airways.
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At the hospital, the doctors will check for bacterial infection and help manage symptoms. In some cases, the child needs to be hooked up with oxygen and an IV to ensure he’s not dehydrated.
If your child is older and his doctor allows him to be treated at home, here are some measures you can do at home to alleviate symptoms.
Place a mist vaporizer or humidifier in your child’s bedroom to make it easier for him to breathe.
Prop up your child’s pillows or place one under his neck to keep his head raised and his airways unobstructed.
Using saline nose drops can also help clear out nasal congestion to help your child breathe easier.
Ensure your child is getting enough fluids to keep him hydrated.
If not attended to ASAP, that type of breathing difficulty can lead to increased mucus production in the lung’s airways and swollen lung tissue. Sometimes, it can also lead to a bacterial infection or pneumonia.