What is Pediatric Chronic Lung Disease?
Pediatric Chronic Lung Disease (CLD) is a long-term respiratory problem that can affect infants and is also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. CLD can range from mild to severe and has different types including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In children, chronic lung disease means that there is damage in a newborn’s lungs. These kinds of respiratory problems immediately following birth are most common in premature babies because their lungs have not had the time to develop fully. However, there are available chronic lung diseases treatments that you can use to cure or ease symptoms of CLD.
Symptoms of CLD in Children
Some of the symptoms of CLD in children are:
- Respiratory distress (rapid breathing, flaring of the nostrils, grunting, chest reactions)
- Need for continued ventilation or oxygenation after the premature baby reaches 36 weeks of gestation
- Rapid and difficult breathing or grunting and weight loss
Causes of CLD in Children
The causes of pediatric chronic lung disease are mostly from prematurity or premature birth. It can also be caused by the side effects of mechanical ventilation and supplemental oxygen.
There may be a number of tests for your child, both to establish a diagnosis and to monitor treatment. A series of chest X-rays may show some changes in children’s lungs. Blood tests are another way to diagnose by seeing if there is enough oxygen in the blood.
Your medical care team or pediatrician will look for signs of lung deficiency like how fast the child breathes, nasal flaring, and the other symptoms associated with CLD.
Spirometry is a common lung test that will have your child breathe into a mouthpiece attached to a recording device called a spirometer. The test looks at the amount of air exhaled with force after inhaling deeply, how quickly air is exhaled, and the amount of air left in the lungs after a normally exhaled breath. This will help determine whether or not and how serious the CLD is.
Pediatric Chronic Lung Disease Treatment
Newborns with CLD may need a mechanical ventilator for some time, however, the conditions in most cases gradually get better over time. The main focus for children with chronic lung diseases treatment is to help the child become more comfortable and breathe better.
Medications can also play a role in chronic lung diseases treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as:
- Bronchodilators may be used to open up the airways.
- Corticosteroids are often used to lessen inflammation.
- Diuretics are given to keep fluid from building up in the lungs.
Nutritional support can play a role in treating chronic lung diseases. When children have breathing problems, they burn a lot of calories so it is important to incorporate extra proteins to ensure the child is growing at a normal rate. However, it can be difficult for children to breathe and therefore eat. High calorie protein supplements can be given through a tube to children to ensure proper growth and development.
When to Seek Out Treatment
When the symptoms listed above like rapid breathing, flaring of the nostrils, and weight loss get severe and make it hard for the child to live everyday life, it is time to seek out help from a pediatrician to possibly diagnose and start treatment. Babies with severe shortness of breath may need to be put on a ventilator so it is important to get it as fast as possible.
George Mark House: How We Help
At George Mark Children’s House, we partner with families to bring an element of normalcy and joy into their lives. In addition to our around-the-clock skilled pediatric nursing, we offer everyday activities including play, art, music, movement and hydrotherapy.
If you are needing more than acute care, George Mark Children’s House focuses on the continuity of care for illness that cannot yet be cured. We develop an individualized care plan for each child, coordinating services among the George Mark care team—pediatricians, nurses and nursing assistants, social worker, child life specialist, palliative aquatics specialist, psychologist, support staff and volunteers.