Respiratory conditions

Respiratory conditions can affect people of any age. On this page, you'll find information about three respiratory conditions that often affect young children: bronchiolitis, rheumatic fever, and croup. 

You'll also find links to places where you can find out more about each specific condition. If you believe your child is affected by one of these conditions, remember to contact your general practitioner for tailored advice and treatment.

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Bronchiolitis is an infection of the small airways of the lung (the bronchioles). It is a common condition of babies. Most affected babies are not seriously ill and make a full recovery. Sometimes it becomes more serious and hospital care may be needed.

Fast breathing, difficulty with breathing and wheezing may develop.

The nostrils may open out (flare) and you can often see the muscles between the ribs moving inwards during each breath. This is because the baby needs more effort than normal to breathe.

The baby may have difficulty feeding and taking drinks. This is because the baby is ill and becomes tired easily. The baby may struggle to breathe and to feed at the same time.

Any child who seems to be struggling to breathe or not drinking well needs to be seen urgently by a medical professional.

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a serious but preventable illness.

It mainly affects Māori and Pacific children and young people (aged 4 and above), especially if they have other family members who have had rheumatic fever. It is a rare problem that happens after a strep throat infection.

Any sore throat should be discussed with a medical professional to consider being swabbed or treated for strep throat.

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Croup is an infection of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). It is often mild and most children soon recover. A steroid medicine is usually prescribed to ease symptoms.

In some cases severe breathing difficulties develop. A small number of children with croup are admitted to hospital, usually for a short time until symptoms ease.

Croup has a very characteristic barking cough that sounds like a dog or seal barking. If they are more unwell they may start to struggle to breathe or get noisy breathing.

Any child who appears to be struggling to breathe needs to be seen by a medical professional urgently.

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