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Bronchiolitis

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What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is an infection that causes a swelling of the tiny air tubes in your child’s lungs. This may make it hard for your child to breathe. Most of the time, bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. Bronchiolitis often occurs during the winter months in children younger than 2 years of age and usually lasts 7-14 days.

What are the symptoms of bronchiolitis?

  • Clear drainage from the nose
  • Cough
  • Fussiness
  • Poor feeding/appetite
  • Loud or fast breathing
  • Wheezing (a tight whistling or musical sound heard when your child breathes)
  • Retractions (your child’s chest seems to sink in with each breath)
  • Vomiting
  • Apnea (your child stops breathing)
  • Slight fever

How is bronchiolitis treated?

Most children with bronchiolitis get better on their own and do not need medical treatment. Newborns, premature infants, or infants with heart or lung problems may be sicker and need to be hospitalized. In the hospital, your child may be given medicines to help lower fever, to make breathing easier, or to help fight other infections.

How did your child get this infection?

Most cases of bronchiolitis are caused by viruses. Viruses are easy to spread to otherThe easiest and most common way to spread viruses is by hand contact. Sometimes viruses are spread by being close to a person who is sneezing or coughing.

How can we prevent others from getting it?

The best way to prevent getting viruses (and other infections, too) is good handwashing.

If your child is hospitalized, he/she will be placed on “Contact Precautions” to help prevent other children from getting bronchiolitis.

Contact Precautions means that while in the hospital:

  • Everyone, including you, employees, doctors and other visitors will need to:
    1. wash hands before and after touching your child or other things at your child’s bedside
    2. wear a gown when handling your child.
  • You will need to wash your hands before handling things such as telephones, TV’s, chairs, bathrooms, etc. Also, if your child’s roommate or parent needs anything (i.e. pacifier needs to be picked up, crying child needs to be comforted, etc.) call a nurse for help.
  • Your child must stay in his/her bed or in the bedside area, if not in a private room. Your child cannot go to see other patients or wander in the hallway.
  • Your child must not share toys or other items with other children and families in the hospital.
  • Other children will not be permitted to visit.

Helpful Hint:

Even if your child still has a cough, he/she may go back to the babysitter, day care or school once he/she no longer has a fever and is feeling better.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 04/2008

(757) 668-7000