Bronchiolitis -- Essential Facts

What is bronchiolitis?


Bronchiolitis is an infection of the small air passages of the lungs, usually caused by a virus. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is the most common cause. Bronchiolitis is a common illness in babies and young children. It usually occurs during winter and early spring.


What are the signs and symptoms of bronchiolitis?


Bronchiolitis usually starts as a cold with fever, runny nose, stuffiness and poor appetite. After a few days, the baby may start wheezing, have trouble breathing or breathe fast. More severe symptoms include having bluish skin and/or using the stomach muscles to help breathe.


How can I help prevent bronchiolitis in my child?


Keep the baby away from places where there are a lot of sick kids, such as day care centers. Wash your hands often. Check with your doctor if your infant was born prematurely (less than 35 weeks). Your baby is at higher risk and may need medicine to help prevent the infection.


How is bronchiolitis treated?


Since bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, babies generally get better without any treatment. In some cases the baby may need to be admitted to the hospital.


  • The best thing to do is make the baby as comfortable as possible.
  • Keep the baby's nose clear by using bulb suction.
  • Encourage drinking. Some babies need smaller feedings more often.
  • Humidifying the air may help.
  • It has been proven that antibiotics do not help.
  • Medicines that a baby breathes into the lungs are sometimes tried but usually are not helpful.


When should I call my child's doctor?


  • Whenever you have questions or concerns about caring for your child.
  • If your child's symptoms get worse.
  • If your child is not drinking enough (less than half of normal or making less than two wet diapers per day).
  • If your child is at high risk (premature, heart or lung disease, nervous system disease).


When I should go to the Emergency Department?


  • Your child has a bluish color.
  • Your child is very sleepy all the time.
  • Your child's breathing is fast and shallow (more than 70 breaths per minute).
  • Your child is using his/her stomach muscles to help breathe. When the baby breathes, his/her ribs suck in and his/her nose flares


What preventive measures should I take to prevent my child from falling sick?


  • Infants should not be exposed to passive smoking
  • Breastfeeding is recommended to decrease a child's risk of having LRTD
  • Clinicians should educate personnel and family members on hand sanitation Alcohol-based rubs are referred for hand decontamination. An alternative is hand-washing with antimicrobial soap.



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