Bronchiolitis In Children : Cause, Treatment, Danger Signs


Last Updated : 2/4/2002
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First Author : Dr. Ira Shah
Current Author : Beatriz Morillo
Key information
What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the lung that leads to difficulty in breathing, wheezing and symptoms similar to asthma. It is usually seen in children between 4 months to 2 years of age.

What is the

cause of bronchiolitis


Viral infections such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus (hMPV), parainfluenza virus, influenza virus, or adenovirus among others can cause inflammation (swelling) of the small airways of the lung (bronchioles) leading to narrowing of the air passage. This causes wheezing and rapid respiration with difficulty in breathing. It is seen in infants predominantly as their bronchioles are small in size and if there is even a little swelling, the air passage through the lungs becomes difficult. As the child grows older, the bronchioles become bigger and on inflammation does not cause severe problems.

What happens if a child has bronchiolitis


A child with bronchiolitis will have low-grade fever, wheezing and rapid breathing that may worsen for 2-3 days and then gradually improve. In most of the cases, the child can be looked after at home ensuring comfort measures and good hydration while the infection self resolves; however, if the child’s breathing is not good, or if there are difficulties to feed the child, he/she will need hospital admission for supportive therapy. Even the children who require admission, the vast majority of the cases will recover and won´t suffer from major problems. Occasionally the wheeze may last more than 7 days and the cough more than 14 days.

What is the

treatment for bronchiolitis


Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for bronchiolitis. As mentioned above, if the symptoms are severe, the child may need hospitalization for oxygen supplementation and nasogastric feed or intravenous fluids.
At home:
Ensure that your child gets adequate fluids, as loss of water through respiration is more. If the child is breastfeed, don´t stop it, as breast milk during at least the first 6 months of life decrease the incidence of respiratory infections.
If the nose is blocked, saline drops can be put in each nostril to remove the dry or sticky mucus. Nasal aspirations should not be used, as they can be very distressing for the child. Try repositioning the child –seated or head slightly elevated- as this may help him/her breathing.
Smoke is related with increased severity and hospital admission in children with bronchiolitis. Avoid exposing the child to smoke and kindly consider smoking cessation.
As these viruses spread using the secretions of the child, ensure all the family members wash their hands with water and soap after contact with the child or his/her objects.

Danger signs -red flags-
What are the
danger signs one should look for

Your child should be immediately brought to the hospital if:
- Breathing is difficult, with more than 60 breaths/minute
- Child is lethargic
- Child is having apnoeas (stopping breathing for seconds) or is getting blue (cyanosis)
- Child refuses to feed or is not having any wet nappy in the last 12 hours.


Contributor Information and Disclosures First Author : Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India

Current Author : Beatriz Morillo
MD, Sevilla, Spain

First Created : 2/5/2001
Last Updated : 2/4/2002
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Last Updated : 2/4/2002
Previous Authors :
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