In adults, interstitial lung disease (ILD) refers to the inflammation of the tissues that surround and separate the alveolae (air sacs) in the lungs. The most common manifestation of ILD in adults is in the form of pneumonia and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
In children, ILD is much different. While children will experience a decrease in the oxygen supply in their body and may experience scarring of the lung tissue such as what happens with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the overall insterstitial lung disease process is not the same in children as for adults.
Symptoms of chILD
CHILD can appear as early as immediately after birth to anytime during childhood. If your child has had or is currently experiencing at least three of the following symptoms persistently without an identifiable cause, then speak to you family doctor and arrange to have your child assess by a physician with experience in dealing with chILD:
- symptoms of abnormal breathing: cough, fast breathing, use of "helper" muscles to breathe (your child's rib or neck muscles are visibly working to help them take in air)
- failure to gain weight ("failing to thrive")
- persistent crackles, wheezing, or other sounds in the lungs
- recurring pneumonia or bronchiolitis
(Note: If your child experiences chest pains or coughs up phlegm during physical exercise, this is not a sign of ILD. This is a sign of something else that your doctor will need to test for.)
What Causes chILD?
There is no single cause for chILD that is responsible for development of all cases. In fact, approximately half of all diagnoses do not have an identifiable cause. Some cases are caused by a rare gene deformity that affects the production of surfactant fluid which lines the alveoli and helps keep airways open.
Because there is no singular cause for this condition and because symptoms may have other causal factors, diagnosis of chILD really happens by the process of elimination. Doctors will test for conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis, acid reflux, heart disease, aspiration, scoliosis, abnormalities in the chest wall, neuro-muscular disease, and immune deficiencies.