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 2 during winter and early spring. The most common causes of bronchiolitis are the influenza (flu) virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
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.
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.
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:
Questions to ask your child's doctor about bronchiolitis:
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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 healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/05/2015