The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued a new quality standard to reduce child hospital admissions for bronchiolitis.
Bronchiolitis in children [QS122] offers advice to parents, carers and clinicians on spotting and managing the chest infection in babies and children.
The infection is caused by a virus – usually the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – and cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Last year more than 39,300 babies and young children were admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis in England, according to the Health & Social Care Information Centre.
In the majority of cases, symptoms are mild, lasting only a few days and most children with bronchiolitis can be managed at home.
The standard says that parents and carers should be advised that bronchiolitis usually settles without the need for treatment. Normal medicines that would be given for a cold can be used to help ease symptoms.
Studies, Antibiotic utilisation for hospitalised paediatric patients and Bronchiolitis 12: A nationwide audit, have shown that antibiotics are being given to young children for bronchiolitis even though they are not recommended. The standard stresses that healthcare professionals should not prescribe antibiotics, as they do not work and can cause side effects.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 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.”