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BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 07 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:4
  1. David Isaacs, Clinical associate professor
  1. Department of Immunology and InfectiousDiseases, Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia

    Tachypnoea (>50 breaths/min) warrants admission to hospital

    Bronchiolitis is a pathological description that has come to be used as a clinical diagnosis. It is primarily a disease of the small airways, causing these to be obstructed by inflammatory exudate. More than 70% of cases are caused by respiratory syncytial virus, which in temperate climates results in a sharp winter epidemic lasting two to five months.1 Bronchiolitis is a disease of infancy, characterised by cough, fever, tachypnoea, diffuse crackles, hyperinflation, and chest retraction. Wheezes are a less constant feature,1 2 3 and bronchiolitis should be distinguishable clinically from infantile asthma by the presence of widespread crackles. Unfortunately, the diagnostic criteria for bronchiolitis have varied considerably, with consequent blurring of the distinction between it and asthma.4

    Over 95% of infants have been infected with respiratory syncytial virus by the end of their second winter; 40% of the infections in infancy affect the lower respiratory tract,1 2 3 4 5 although only about 1% of these children will need admission to hospital.1 The overall mortality from primary infection in previously healthy infants is low and has been estimated …

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