By Semko, Laura 
March 27, 2019


Bronchiolitis is an inflammation in the lungs. It affects the small breathing tubes. It is most common in children under 2 years of age. Children tend to get better after a few days. But in some cases, it can lead to severe illness. So a child with this lung infection must be treated and watched carefully.Girl sitting up in bed, coughing.

What is bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis is an infection that involves the small breathing tubes of the lungs. The most common cause is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) but it can be caused by other viruses. The virus causes the bronchioles (very small breathing tubes in the lungs) to become inflamed, swollen, and filled with fluid. In small children this can lead to trouble breathing and feeding. The symptoms start out like those of a common cold. They include stuffy and runny nose, sneezing, and a mild cough. Over a few days, your child may develop wheezing, trouble breathing, and a fever.

How is bronchiolitis treated?

Antibiotics are not used to treat bronchiolitis unless a bacterial infection is present. Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe saline nose drops to help clear the mucus. In severe cases, your child may need to stay in the hospital. He or she may get intravenous (IV) fluids, oxygen, and breathing treatments.

How can I prevent the spread of bronchiolitis? 

The viruses that caused bronchiolitis spread easily. They can be spread through touching, coughing, or sneezing. To help stop the spread of infection:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap often. Or, use alcohol-based hand cleaners. Do this before and after touching your child.

  • Keep your child away from other children while he or she is sick.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if your child:

  • Gets worse

  • Has a deep, harsh-sounding cough

  • Breathes faster than normal, has trouble breathing, or has wheezing or a whistling sound with breathing

  • Is very sleepy or weak

  • Unless advised otherwise by your child’s healthcare provider, call the provider right away if:

    • Your child is of any age and has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C).

    • Your child is younger than 2 years of age and a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) continues for more than 1 day.

    • Your child is 2 years old or older and a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) continues for more than 3 days.


March 27, 2019


Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Clinical features and diagnosis, Up To Date, Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Treatment; outcome; and prevention, Up To Date

Reviewed By:  

Alan J Blaivas DO