What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the lungs, which causes the bronchioles to swell, making breathing difficult. It occurs most often in children under age 2 during winter and early spring. The most common causes of bronchiolitis are the influenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
What are the signs of bronchiolitis?
- Runny nose
- Slight fever (under 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Rapid breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Loss of appetite
How is bronchiolitis treated?
Antibiotics are not usually prescribed to treat this condition. Just like the flu, bronchiolitis is caused by a virus and must be allowed to run its course. Your child's doctor should evaluate any illness that complicates your child's breathing. Bronchiolitis usually clears up within a week or two, but children with more severe symptoms or complications may need to be hospitalized. Some hospital treatments include: breathing treatments, fluids, and medicine given intravenously (IV).
How can I care for my child at home?
To help your child feel better, there are some things you can do at home:
- Give your child plenty of clear fluids.
- Use a cool-mist vaporizer in the house if recommended by your doctor.
Give your child acetaminophen for fever. Do not give your child aspirin.
Can bronchiolitis be prevented?
Bronchiolitis is contagious to other small children through close contact, saliva, and mucus. The best way to prevent it is to limit your child's exposure to flu-like illnesses particularly during winter months. Until your child is better, keep him or her home from day care and be sure to wash toys with a disinfectant between uses. Always wash your hands before and after caring for your child.
Call the doctor if your child:
- Is vomiting
- Is breathing very rapidly (more than 40 breaths per minute)
- Is having difficulty breathing
- Must sit up to breathe
- Is lethargic or unexplainably drowsy
Questions to ask your child's doctor
- For how long and at what times of the day should I give my child medication, if any?
- How should I store the medication? In the refrigerator?
- When will my child start to feel better?
- Will I need to bring my child back for a follow-up visit?
- Should I keep my child home from school or day care?
- From which activities should I limit my child?
- Are certain foods or liquids more helpful?
- Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
- Which over-the-counter medications/preparations are NOT recommended?
- Which symptoms should I report to the doctor?