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    Bronchiolitis The Basics

    Updated at October 27th, 2023

    Disclaimer [ENGLISH]


    DisclaimerThis material is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor does it replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. Reference to a specific commercial product or service does not imply endorsement or recommendation of that product or service by CPCMG.


    What is bronchiolitis?

    • Common illness of the respiratory tract
    • Caused by an infection that affects the tiny airways, called the bronchioles
    • Inflammation and mucus build-up in the bronchioles

    What causes bronchiolitis?

    • Viral infections are the most common cause
      • RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus is the name of a specific virus that causes bronchiolitis

    What are symptoms of bronchiolitis?

    • Symptoms are usually more severe in younger children. Older children might only have typical cold symptoms.
    • Your child may have a bad cough, hard time breathing, or wheezing
    • Your child may have runny nose or congestion
    • Your child may have a fever
    • Your child may want to eat and drink less

    Cold: Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

    Cold symptoms may include:

    • Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher)
    • Cough (dry or wet sounding)
    • Congestion
    • Runny nose
    • Sneezing
    • Fussiness
    • Poor feeding

    Bronchiolitis: Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

    May include cold symptoms, plus:

    • Fast breathing
    • Flaring of the nostrils & head bobbing with breathing
    • Rhythmic grunting during breathing (see sound clip clip, below)
    • Belly breathing, tugging between the ribs and/or the lower neck (see video, below)
    • Wheezing

    How is it treated? 

    • Usually, no medications are prescribed.
    • Using nasal saline drops and suctioning of the nose are helpful
    • Encourage lots of fluids - smaller, more frequent drinks
    • Your child’s provider may advise taking your child to the hospital if they are having trouble breathing or trouble staying hydrated

    What can help prevent it?

    • Lots of hand washing
    • Avoid smoke exposure
    • Avoid others who are sick
    • Ensure your child is up to date on vaccines
    • Avoid sharing food or beverages

    When to see your child’s provider:

    • Your child is showing any signs of trouble breathing 
    • Concerns for dehydration:
      • Lips and mouth look dry
      • your child has urinated less than three times in 24 hours
      • Your child is not producing tears when crying
    • Your child is getting worse
    • Your child has fever for 5 days

    This publication was adapted from information within American Academy of Pediatrics Patient Education Handouts, Rady Children’s Hospital, and UpToDate.com.

    Reviewed by:   TT D.O., AR D.O  | 08/2023