TMH Living Well: Baby all stuffed up and can’t breathe? Try the new Suction Clinic at TMH |

TMH Living Well: Baby all stuffed up and can’t breathe? Try the new Suction Clinic at TMH

Myndi Christopher

Babies with bronchiolitis — and their parents — are breathing easier these days, thanks to an innovative new clinic at The Memorial Hospital. Nothing is scarier than watching a baby struggle to breathe, which can happen when they are sick with a cold or flu.

“Babies cannot clear their own airways, so parents have to do it for them with a bulb suction. Sometimes, infants have so many secretions that parents aren’t able to get all the secretions out. That’s where the Suction Clinic comes in,” said Dr. Kelly Follett, board-certified pediatrician with TMH Medical Clinic.

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the small air passages in the lungs, and is caused by several different viruses. It’s very common, especially in babies between 2 and 6 months, but occurs up to 2 years of age. Infections peak from winter to late spring.

At the Suction Clinic, respiratory therapists clear the nose with a nasopharyngeal suction machine. The therapist places a small tube up each of the baby’s nostrils, and the machine helps suck out secretions. The respiratory therapist also evaluates children by counting their respiratory rate and checking for oxygen saturation. It’s painless and brings quick relief.

“Oftentimes, babies improve significantly because they simply need a good, deep suction to clear secretions, and then they will do fine at home. This saves families a trip to the emergency department and a possible hospital admission,” Follett said.

According to Follett, it is Murphy’s Law that babies get worse after the clinic closes and on weekends. That’s why the clinic is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parents visit their doctor and get a prescription for the clinic. It can be used up to four times a day for a week, no appointment needed.

“It’s a simple solution to a simple need — giving babies a little extra help to clear their secretions,” Follett said.

More than reducing costs of expensive late -night trips to the ED, the clinic gives parents peace of mind that their infant isn’t struggling to breathe. Not only babies with bronchiolitis need help clearing their stuffy noses — any upper respiratory illness can create the need.

“I so appreciate that the Suction Clinic exists. It worked really well for my son. He had a virus, so there wasn’t much anyone could do to get him to heal more quickly, but clearing his mucus was a great help,” said Karina Browning, a local mom.

The cost for the clinic is $128 per visit—much cheaper than an ED visit for parents, and the visit is billed to insurance. Once parents have a prescription from their doctor, they check in at The Memorial Hospital’s ED main desk (750 Hospital Loop in Craig) and indicate they are there for the Suction Clinic.

Sometimes, it’s the small, nimble organizations that lead the giants. This innovative idea exists in only a few places around the country.

“I learned about this service in Salt Lake City, where I completed my training. I didn’t realize until after I left that it is not common practice. Only a few hospitals in the country are doing this; they’re finding it saves families worry and extra costs,” Follett said.

“The staff is very professional. They got me in and out quickly. I am so glad it’s available — it’s such a relief,” Browning said.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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