Bronchiolitis is a childhood disease that affects the lungs. It occurs when a virus enters the breathing system. The virus causes the tiny airways in the lungs to become swollen. As a result, a thick fluid called mucus collects in the airways. This makes it hard for air to flow freely in the lungs.
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Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. There are several different types of virus that may cause it. The viruses are easily spread from person to person like a common cold . It spreads most often through coughs or sneezes which release droplets of moisture into the air. Breathing in the air can cause the infection in a noninfected person.
Bronchiolitis can affect anyone, but is most common in children under the age of 2 years old.
Other factors that may increase your risk of infection include:
Symptoms of bronchiolitis occur in two stages:
During the first 2-3 days the child will probably have a:
During the next 2-3 days, the symptoms increase to include:
More serious symptoms may require care from your doctor. Call the doctor if your child:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your child's bodily fluids will be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your child's chest. This can be done with a chest x-ray.
There is no medication to cure viral infections. The infection will usually clear on its own after a week to 10 days.
Treatment steps will focus on making your child more comfortable. These steps include:
In severe cases, medical treatment may be needed. Your child may need to be admitted to the hospital.
There is no vaccine to prevent bronchiolitis. There are some medications that may lessen the risk of bronchiolitis by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) . RSV is a virus which causes more than half of all cases of bronchiolitis. This preventative medication is usually given to high-risk babies. It is given monthly during high risk RSV season.
Proper handwashing habits can help to prevent the spread of illness. Make sure to wash your hands before touching your child. Also wash your hands after being in contact with an infected person.
Bronchiolitis can spread easily from one person to another. Children should be kept home until they are well. Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when they cough or sneeze.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
The Canadian Lung Association
Caring for Kids—The Canadian Paediatric Society
Bronchiolitis. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/bronchiolitis.html . Updated February 2014. Accessed September 8, 2014.
Bronchiolitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 22, 2014. Accessed September 8, 2014.
Gadomski AM, Bhasale aL: Bronchodilators for bronchiolitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006:CD001266.
Smyth RL, Openshaw PJ. Bronchiolitis. Lancet. 2006;368:312-322.
Steiner RWP. Treating acute bronchiolitis associated with RSV. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69:325-330.
8/10/2007 according to the following study, as cited by http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Corneli HM, Zorc JJ, Majahan P, et al. A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial of dexamethasone for bronchiolitis. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:331-339.
2/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Panickar J, Lakhanpaul M, Lambert PC, et al. Oral prednisolone for preschool children with acute virus-induced wheezing. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:329-338.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
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