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Infant Chronic Lung Disease

February 7, 2024

When it comes to taking care of babies who arrive ahead of schedule, the path may include unexpected challenges, which can consist of chronic lung disease.

Also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), this condition is defined as follows:

 “...a breathing disorder in premature infants where the infants' lungs become irritated and do not develop normally. It occurs most often in low-weight infants born more than two months early," - Cincinnati Children's®

Premature babies with BPD can also experience long-term respiratory complications. In this article, we'll discuss what BPD is and how caregivers can be crucial in managing this condition. 

What Is Premature Lung Disease?

Premature infants that are born before their lungs can fully develop often require medical interventions such as oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation. These lifesaving supports have the unfortunate side effect of sometimes causing scarring or swelling in little lungs. 

Pneumonia can also develop, causing further damage. 

All of this can lead to infant chronic lung disease, also known as “chronic lung disease of prematurity,” or BPD. If your child’s healthcare team notices wheezing and trouble breathing while still in the hospital after birth, they may order the following to help diagnose BPD:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan, MRI
  • Blood tests

How Is BPD Treated?

Premature babies are most often treated for BPD while still in the NICU or hospital setting. Some infants require ventilators, oxygen, occupational therapy, and nutritional therapy to ensure they heal and grow appropriately. Medications are also available to help improve airflow and decrease swelling in a child’s lungs. 

After the baby is released from the hospital, precautions can still be taken to ensure recovery from BPD. As a caregiver of a child with BPD, it’s essential to maintain a clean, smoke-free living space that is free from irritants that can affect the baby’s breathing.

You can also ensure the home is not plagued by dry air and is well-balanced to aid in easy breathing. Kids with BPD may also need more frequent doctor check-ups in their first year of life. 

What Are the Long-Term Effects of BPD?

According to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital notes that kids with BPD may experience long-term effects, including

  • Trouble swallowing
  • A higher risk for colds/flu
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Breathing problems as adults 

As you care for your loved ones, remember you are not alone. Best Care is here to help with all your questions related to family caregiving. We are here to help! 

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Caregiver holding infants hand.
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