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What is Bronchiolitis?

What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?


Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory tract infection that affects up to a third of babies in their first year. Young children are also susceptible. The illness is often caused by an airborne virus known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This makes the bronchioles (the smallest airways in the lungs) swollen and infected, making breathing difficult. The same virus can also cause ear infections, croup and pneumonia, so keep an eye on your child's fever and watch out for any other symptoms. Bronchiolitis is mostly a winter illness, occurring most often between November and March.

You should seek immediate medical help if your baby:

  • Develops a fever above 100 degrees F
  • Seems very drowsy
  • Has a sunken chest or fontanelle
  • Appears to be dehydrated
  • Is wheezing
  • Has flaring nostrils as he struggles to breathe
  • Is under three months old
  • Has an underlying health condition
  • Was premature
  • Has a weakened immune system

What are the symptoms of Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis symptoms a runny nose, lots of catarrh and a cough. As the illness progresses, though, you might notice your baby or child developing a slightly raised temperature. He might also have a more troublesome, dry cough and may also be reluctant to feed, probably because he's having trouble breathing through his nose. His heart might seem to be racing and he might be taking fast, shallow breaths.

What are the treatments and remedies of Bronchiolitis?

Your baby won't usually be prescribed any medication for bronchiolitis because it's usually a viral illness. Although it's distressing to see your baby suffering, make sure you offer plenty of breastfeeds or, if you are formula feeding, extra drinks of cooled, boiled water to keep him hydrated. Keep his temperature down by giving him paracetamol or ibuprofen. The infection usually lasts about two weeks. It's not unusual for a baby to suffer with two bouts of bronchiolitis in one season.

This guide

This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional - if you have any concerns, contact your physician immediately.

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