Viruses that cause bronchiolitis are widespread and the infection cannot always be prevented. Babies who are at very high risk for bronchiolitis, such as premature infants (i.e., infants born before 37 weeks), infants with chronic lung disease, and infants with congenital heart disease, may benefit from RSV antibody injections. These antibodies, which help prevent RSV infection or lessen its severity, usually are administered as five injections, given monthly starting in November or December. There is no vaccine to prevent bronchiolitis.
The following guidelines can help reduce the risk for bronchiolitis:
- Wash hands frequently. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or an antimicrobial soap. If using soap, be sure to use warm water and scrub for at least 15 seconds. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about washing hands after interacting with a sick child.
- Be sure the environment is as clean as possible. Use a virus-killing disinfectant on house-hold surfaces.
- Use disposable tissues. Do not use the same tissue more than once.
- Keep children away from other people with coughs and colds. Adults who are sick should wear a mask while caring for children to avoid spreading the virus.
- Keep sick children home from daycare, especially if they are still coughing. Daycare centers experience significantly high rates of bronchiolitis infection.
- Keep children away from secondhand smoke. Inhaling secondhand smoke can aggravate the breathing passages and cause other health problems.
- Breastfeed, if possible. Bottle-fed babies are more susceptible to bronchiolitis.