Authored by Revere Health

Bronchiolitis: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

October 14, 2018 | Family MedicineUncategorized

Bronchiolitis, a viral respiratory infection that affects the airways, is one of the most common illnesses affecting infants and toddlers. This condition causes mucus build-up that impacts breathing.

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes more than 50 percent of bronchiolitis cases, but bronchiolitis can also be caused by the flu, the common cold and several other types of respiratory viruses.

It’s important for new parents to be aware of the signs of this condition and understand when to seek help for their children.


Does My Child Have Bronchiolitis?

Because of their small noses and airways, babies ages 3 to 6 months develop bronchiolitis more often than older babies and children. This condition is also disproportionately common in babies who are male, were not breastfed, attend daycare or have older siblings at daycare, live in crowded environments, are exposed to secondhand smoke or were born prematurely.

Bronchiolitis manifests like a common cold, with symptoms that may include:

  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Fever
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Ear infection


With mild cases of bronchiolitis, symptoms typically peak after about 24 to 48 hours and then begin to improve, although the total duration of the illness averages about 12 days. More serious symptoms may develop, though, including include high-pitched wheezing sounds with breathing, nostril flaring, rapid breathing and/or heartbeat, lethargy or exhaustion, worsened coughing that leads to vomiting, poor appetite, sleeplessness and irritability.

When Should I Seek Medical Care?

Although bronchiolitis symptoms are sometimes mild, it can be very serious in babies who were born early, have weak immune systems or have chronic lung or heart disease. If this describes your child, go to the emergency room when the signs of this infection are evident. He or she may need IV fluids and oxygen to treat dehydration and difficulty breathing.

You can treat minor cases of bronchiolitis at home by:

  • Giving your child lots of fluids and plenty of rest
  • Using a vaporizer or humidifier to relieve congestion
  • Giving your child acetaminophen to control fever

When left untreated, bronchiolitis can lead to serious complications, including apnea, dehydration and cyanosis, so it’s important to seek medical attention if your child experiences serious symptoms or if cold-like symptoms persist for more than two days,
Keep in mind that because bronchiolitis is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective. However, medication to keep the airways open may be recommended if severe symptoms are present.

Can I Prevent Bronchiolitis?

Parents who are concerned about the risks of a respiratory infection can take steps to prevent viruses from spreading:

Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often

  • Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often
  • Have others wash their hands before holding your baby
  • Protect your child from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke
  • Cover your mouth whenever you cough or sneeze at home
  • Avoid sharing drinking glasses with other people
  • Wear a mask around your baby if you develop respiratory symptoms

In addition, your doctor may recommend a monthly RSV shot during flu season if your infant is at high risk. It’s especially important to take these protective steps during the winter months when your baby is young.



Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages and providing thorough and timely healthcare for the entire family throughout all stages of life.



“Infections: Bronchiolitis.” KidsHealth.

“Bronchiolitis.” Mayo Clinic.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.