Use of heliox delivered via high-flow nasal cannula to treat an infant with coronavirus-related respiratory infection and severe acute air-flow obstruction

Respir Care. 2014 Nov;59(11):e166-70. doi: 10.4187/respcare.02728. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


Heliox, a helium-oxygen gas mixture, has been used for many decades to treat obstructive pulmonary disease. The lower density and higher viscosity of heliox relative to nitrogen-oxygen mixtures can significantly reduce airway resistance when an anatomic upper air-flow obstruction is present and gas flow is turbulent. Clinically, heliox can decrease airway resistance in acute asthma in adults and children and in COPD. Heliox may also enhance the bronchodilating effects of β-agonist administration for acute asthma. Respiratory syndromes caused by coronavirus infections in humans range in severity from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome associated with human coronavirus OC43 and other viral strains. In infants, coronavirus infection can cause bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia in variable combinations and can produce enough air-flow obstruction to cause respiratory failure. We describe a case of coronavirus OC43 infection in an infant with severe acute respiratory distress treated with heliox inhalation to avoid intubation.

Keywords: air-flow obstruction; coronavirus; heliox; high-flow nasal cannula; respiratory syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Airway Obstruction / drug therapy*
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / complications
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / virology
  • Coronavirus / immunology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Helium
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Infant
  • Intubation / methods*
  • Male
  • Nose
  • Oxygen


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Oxygen