Bronchiolitis – Essential Facts

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the small air passages of the lungs, usually caused by a virus. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is the most common cause.

Bronchiolitis is a common illness in babies and young children. It usually occurs during winter and early spring.

  • Keep the baby away from places where there are a lot of sick kids, such as day care centers.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • If your infant was born prematurely (less than 35 weeks), check with your doctor . Your baby is at higher risk and may need medicine to help prevent the infection.
  • Bronchiolitis usually starts as a cold with fever, runny nose, stuffiness and poor appetite.
  • After a few days, the baby may start wheezing, have trouble breathing or breathe fast.
  • More severe symptoms include having bluish skin and/or using the stomach muscles to help breathe.
  • Since bronchiolitis is caused by a virus, babies generally get better without any treatment.
  • In some cases the baby may need to be admitted to the hospital.
  • The best thing to do is make the baby as comfortable as possible.
  • Encourage drinking. Some babies need smaller feedings more often.
  • Humidifying the air may help.
  • It has been proven that antibiotics do not help.
  • Medicines that a baby breathes into the lungs are sometimes tried but usually are not helpful.
  • Whenever you have questions or concerns about caring for your child.
  • If your child's symptoms get worse.
  • If your child is not drinking enough (less than half of normal or making less than two wet diapers per day).
  • If your child is at high risk (premature, heart or lung disease, nervous system disease).
  • Your child has a bluish color.
  • Your child is very sleepy all the time.
  • Your child's breathing is fast and shallow (more than 70 breaths per minute).
  • Your child is using his/her stomach muscles to help breathe. When the baby breathes, his/her ribs suck in and his/her nose flares.

Last Updated 07/2013