Pediatric Bronchlolltis

What is bronchiolitis ?

Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the lungs that causes a narrowing of the airways of the lungs (bronchioles), making breathing difficult. It occurs most often in children under age two during winter and early spring. The most common causes of bronchiolitis are the influenza (flu) virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

What are the signs of bronchiolitis?

  • Runny nose
  • Slight fever (under 101° F)
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of appetite

How is bronchiolitis treated?

Antibiotics are not usually prescribed to treat this condition. 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. Wheezing and tight breathing may become worse for 2-3 days and then begin to improve. The wheezing can last approximately 7 days, and the cough about 14 days.

Wheezing and tight breathing may become worse for two to three days and then begin to improve. The wheezing can last approximately seven days, and the cough about 14 days.

A common complication of bronchiolitis is an ear infection. A small percentage of children may need oxygen therapy or intravenous (IV) fluids, which would be given in the hospital.

Can bronchiolitis be prevented?

Bronchiolitis is contagious to other small children through close contact, saliva, and mucus. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid others who are sick, and with good hand washing. Until your child is better, keep him or her home from daycare and be sure to wash toys between uses.

Call the doctor if your child:

  • is showing signs of breathing problems (nostrils flaring, squeezing of muscles under rib cage, rapid breathing);
  • is showing signs of dehydration (dry mouth, lack of tears when crying, decreased urination);
  • is lethargic (sluggish, tired).

Questions to ask your child's doctor about bronchiolitis:

  • Should I give my child medication? If so, for how long and at what times of the day?
  • How should I store the medication? Should I refrigerate it?
  • 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 daycare?
  • Should he or she be limited from certain activities? If so, which ones?
  • Are there certain foods or liquids he or she should have or avoid?
  • Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
  • Which over-the-counter medications/preparations do you not recommend?
  • Which symptoms should I report to you/your office?


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/29/2015...#8272