Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the lungs most common in young children. It causes the small airways of the lungs (bronchioles) to swell. This makes breathing difficult.
Bronchiolitis is caused by one of several of viruses that spread from person to person, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.
Bronchiolitis is most common in premature babies and children under 2 years old. It is also more common in the winter. Other things that may raise the risk are:
The first symptoms will be the same as a common cold. This may include stuffy or runny nose, cough, and mild fever. After a few days, the cough will worsen and breathing will be faster.
Symptoms may be:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will be able to diagnose bronchiolitis based on this information.
Viral infections cannot be cured with medicine. The virus often goes away in 2 to 3 weeks.
The goal of treatment is supportive care while the child heals. This may include:
Babies who are at high risk for bronchiolitis by RSV may be given medicine to lessen the risk.
Viruses cannot always be prevented. They are common and spread easily. To lower the risk:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
Caring for Kids—The Canadian Paediatric Society
The Lung Association
Bronchiolitis. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/Bronchiolitis.aspx. Updated September 24, 2019. Accessed January 8, 2020, 2015.
Bronchiolitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bronchiolitis. Updated September 24, 2019. Accessed January 8, 2020.
Friedman JN, Rieder MJ, et al. Bronchiolitis: Recommendations for diagnosis, monitoring and management of children one to 24 months of age. Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Nov;19(9):485-498.
Treating bronchiolitis in infants. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/pages/Treating-Bronchiolitis-in-Infants.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed January 8, 2020.
6/8/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillancehttps://www.dynamed.com/condition/bronchiolitis: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Bronchiolitis in children. Available at: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG9/informationforpublic. Accessed January 8, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 8/5/2020