NICE urges GPs to restrict antibiotics for bronchiolitis and promote self care

GPs should arm parents with information so they can self care at home for babies with bronchiolitis, NICE has said in new guidance, which also calls for a crackdown on inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for the viral illness.

NICE has issued bronchiolitis advice to help drive down hospitalisation admissions in babies and young children.

Around a third of infants will develop clinical bronchiolitis at some point in their first year of life, with around 2-3% requiring hospitalisation. Over 39,000 were admitted in England last year.

Most experience only mild symptoms that last a few days. These can easily be managed at home, and GPs are called on to ensure they arm parents and carers with the necessary safety information to manage their condition.

They should inform parents that medication is generally not needed because the disease is self-limiting, but alert them to possible red flags that signify they should seek further help.

NICE also stressed that patients should not be given antibiotics to treat the viral disease, as this could cause side effects. The warning comes in light of research in hospitals that revealed many young patients are being prescribed the drugs inappropriately.

Antibiotics warning

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker 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.’

NICE deputy chief executive Professor Gillian Leng said: ‘Hospital admissions for bronchiolitis have risen steadily over the past two decades and it is now the third most common reason that babies and young children are admitted to hospital.

‘Although a small number of cases become serious, the large majority are mild and children can be looked after comfortably in their own homes. We want to make sure parents and carers feel safe and confident monitoring their child’s symptoms so that they only have to go to hospital if it is absolutely necessary.’

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