What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is an infection of the Reference bronchioles Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, the small air passages in the lungs. It is common in young children and is the leading cause of serious lower respiratory illness in infants.
What causes bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is usually caused by a virus, especially Reference respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Opens New Window, and frequently occurs in the late fall to early spring.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of bronchiolitis include runny nose, cough, and fever. After a few days, your child may experience shortness of breath and/or breathing that is rapid and labored with wheezing.
A severe infection in infants may cause a noticeably increased breathing rate. For information on what to do if your child has trouble breathing, see the topic Reference Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger.
If your child has heart disease or was born prematurely, call your doctor at the first sign of bronchiolitis.
Symptoms of bronchiolitis may last up to 5 days. Most children get better in 1 to 2 weeks.
How is bronchiolitis diagnosed?
A doctor may diagnose bronchiolitis based on a medical history, your child's symptoms, and a physical exam. Testing is usually not needed if your doctor suspects the bronchiolitis is caused by RSV.
How is it treated?
Home treatment to manage the symptoms of bronchiolitis is usually all that is needed. Have your child drink plenty of liquids to avoid Reference dehydration Opens New Window. If your baby has a stuffy nose, use a Reference suction bulb to remove Reference mucus Opens New Window. Fever medicine (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) may help reduce fever discomfort. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reference Reye syndrome Opens New Window, a serious illness. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not recommended.
The doctor may suggest Reference bronchodilator Opens New Window medicine if your child has shown the tendency to have allergic reactions (Reference atopy Opens New Window). In severe cases, your child may need to stay in the hospital or get extra oxygen.
How can you prevent bronchiolitis?
It is common for children to get respiratory problems (such as bronchiolitis caused by a viral infection), because they are often exposed to people who have infections to which they have not built up Reference immunity Opens New Window. Bronchiolitis is spread just like a cold. To prevent bronchiolitis:
- Avoid contact with other children who have bronchiolitis or Reference upper respiratory infections Opens New Window. If there is an ill child in the home, separate him or her from other children, if possible. Put the child in a room alone to sleep. If your child has bronchiolitis, keep him or her home from school or day care until he or she gets better.
- Wash your hands often to prevent spreading the disease. Hand-washing removes the germs on your hands and helps stop the spread of germs to your child when you touch your child or touch an object he or she might touch.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products around your child. Reference Secondhand smoke Opens New Window irritates the mucous membranes in your child's nose, sinuses, and lungs and increases his or her risk for respiratory infections.
If your child was born early (prematurely), has heart or lung disease, or has other conditions that make it more likely to have problems from RSV, ask the doctor if palivizumab (Synagis) might help. This medicine helps prevent bronchiolitis and other problems from RSV in children most likely to have problems (Reference susceptible Opens New Window). It is injected once a month during RSV season—late fall to early spring.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference June 25, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference John Pope, MD - Pediatrics