Mum issues urgent warning after baby son left fighting for life with little-known bug | The Sun

Mum issues urgent warning after baby son left fighting for life with little-known bug | The Sun

August 4, 2023

A MUM has urged parents to brush up on the symptoms of bronchiolitis after her baby son fell ill with the little-known bug.

The chest infection, which causes swelling in the small airways of the lungs, usually begins with symptoms much like a common cold.

But it can quickly become far more serious, causing breathing difficulties and distressing wheezing – something mum Jen and dad Jamie know all too well.

Their nine-month-old son Casper was struck down with bronchiolitis in June 2021.

He had been "sniffly" and developed conjunctivitis so his parents took him to the GP.

There, they were advised to monitor him closely for any change in his breathing.


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Later that night, Casper was asleep in his dad's arms when they noticed he was "flushed".

"I could see he was working hard to breathe, and I noticed his tummy was sucking in a little under his ribs," Jen told the blog MiniFirstAid.

The family were about to go on holiday so, remembering the warning that they should respond quickly to any changes in breathing, they took Casper to A&E.

Doctors checked his oxygen levels, which were at 92. A typical, healthy reading is between 95 and 100, according to the NHS.

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Jen said: "We vividly remember they were low, but not panic stations.

"But it was then that a few things we hadn't pieced together became clear.

"He had been really sick after a feed the evening before, his nappies were dryer than normal, and although he seemed hungry, he wasn't actually fussed about his milk."

Worryingly, Casper's oxygen levels then plummeted and his parents were told he needed to be put on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma.

"We felt genuine alarm," Jen said. "It was unimaginable to us that Casper would need life support.

"We were totally shell shocked. Our hearts were in our mouths.

"Once he was ventilated we actually felt a sense of calm – it was horrendous seeing him unconscious but we were (falsely) confident that it was pretty fail safe and he would definitely get better."

We felt genuine alarm. We were totally shell shocked. Our hearts were in our mouths.

It was around this time that Jen and Jamie learnt that bronchiolitis typically gets worse between days three and five of the illness.

Casper was no exception. His mum and dad, who were sleeping in a charity-supported flat attached to the hospital, received a call in the middle of the night to tell them he was being moved to a different life support machine called an oscillator.

This would hopefully allow his lungs to rest, which was "crucial" for the youngster's tiny organs.

"The sheer terror of not knowing what we were going to be told still haunts us," Jen said.

"We ran through the streets at 3am to get to our baby, not knowing what we were going to find. 

"However, it soon became apparent that even with the oscillator, Casper’s health was still deteriorating.

"The consultant sat us down and explained that if we left Casper where he was, he wasn’t going to make it."

The tot was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in case he needed to be placed on an ECMO machine, which pumps and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

Thankfully, the team there were "incredible" and critically ill Casper was given alternative medication without the need for the machine.

He also received constant suction and baby physio to clear his lungs.

But things took a downhill turn once again when his breathing tube got stuck as medics tried to remove it.


"We were devastated as Casper was back to being on life support," Jen said.

"We were terrified about what would happen the next time."

Several days later, hospital staff tried again – this time successfully.

"We have never felt joy or a sense of gratitude like it," Jen said.

The youngster remained in intensive care for another couple of days before moving back to a GOSH ward for monitoring.

He also had a surgical procedure to "balloon" his airway as it had become swollen and puffy.

Eventually, Casper returned home and he has since made a full recovery.

But his parents want to warn others of the key signs of bronchiolitis, and what to do if you think your child might have it.

She said: "Learn the signs of breathing distress – Casper’s tummy sucking in under his ribs was a critical sign – but also things like vomiting milk back (the body prioritises breathing over digestion).

"Act on these signs immediately and ignore anyone who says you are panicking unnecessarily.

"Trust your instincts – you know your baby best.

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"Do not assume that that bronchiolitis is a winter disease – this happened to Casper in the height of summer

"If your child has a cold, be mindful about exposing them to other bugs if you don’t have to."

What is bronchiolitis?

BRONCHIOLITIS is a common chest infection that affects babies and children under the age of two.

It is different to bronchitis which causes a cough with lots of mucus and affects people of all ages.

Bronchiolitis is usually relatively mild and can be treated at home, but it can be very serious.

Early symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Cough
  • Slightly higher temperature of 38C

When the condition worsens, kids might also experience:

  • Breathing more quickly
  • Finding it difficult to feed or eat
  • Wheezing
  • Irritability

Symptoms are usually the worst between days three and five. The cough usually gets better within three weeks.

There is no specific treatment for bronchiolitis and it often gets better on its own.

But it can be serious in some cases, and children may need to go to hospital.

You should call 999 or go to A&E if your youngster is struggling to breathe, making grunting noises or sucking their tummy under their ribs.

Other red flags are pauses in breaths, blue skin, tongue or lips, and floppiness and difficulty staying awake.

Parents should ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if their child has a cold that is getting worse, they are eating much less than normal, their nappy has been dry for more than 12 hours, they feel hotter than usual or they are acting very tired or irritable.

Around one in three babies will develop bronchiolitis in the first year of their lives, according to the National Childcare Trust.

One per cent of those hospitalised die from the illness, government figures show.

Source: NHS

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