What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchioles are small airways in your lungs. "-Itis" means inflammation. So bronchiolitis is inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. The inflammation makes it hard for children to breathe. Bronchiolitis happens in babies and children under age 2 years.
Bronchiolitis is caused by an infection from a virus
Your child may have a runny nose, fever, cough, wheezing, and sometimes trouble breathing
Most children get better at home in 3 to 5 days, but some need to be hospitalized
Bronchiolitis is most common in babies under 6 months
What causes bronchiolitis?
Several different viruses can cause bronchiolitis. RSV ( respiratory syncytial virus Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection The respiratory tract is the parts of the body related to breathing (respiration). It includes the nose, windpipe, air passages in the lungs, and the lungs. RSV is a virus that infects the respiratory... read more ) is the most common cause. Bronchiolitis is most common in winter when viruses spread easily.
Doctors think bronchiolitis may be more common and more serious for babies whose mothers smoke cigarettes, especially if their mothers smoked during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?
At first, your baby has symptoms of a cold, such as:
Slight fever (100° to 101° F or 37.8° to 38.3° C)
The cough may last for 2 to 3 weeks or more.
After 3 to 5 days, your baby may have:
Trouble breathing—a baby or child may take fast breaths and make a high pitched sound when breathing out ( wheezing Wheezing in Infants and Children Wheezing is a whistling sound that happens when a person is trying to breathe out, but the airways in the lungs are partly blocked. Wheezing is common in asthma, but it can also be caused by... read more )
Many babies with bronchiolitis have only mild symptoms.
With severe bronchiolitis, your baby or child may have a lot of trouble breathing and symptoms like:
Taking fast, short breaths
How can doctors tell if my child has bronchiolitis?
Doctors can usually tell if your child has bronchiolitis based on the symptoms. Doctors may also:
Measure the oxygen level in your child’s blood using a sensor on your child's finger (pulse oximetry)
Take a cotton swab of mucus from the nose to test for viruses
Sometimes, do a chest x-ray
How do doctors treat bronchiolitis?
Doctors will have you treat children with mild symptoms at home:
Give small amounts of clear fluids such as water or juice often during the day
If your child has a lot of trouble breathing, your child may have to be admitted to the hospital. Usually doctors will:
Give your child extra oxygen through a face mask
Give fluids through an IV (into the vein)
Antibiotics don't help bronchiolitis.