Bronchiolitis

Brief Version

What is bronchiolitis?

Children most often get this disease between 6 months and 2 years of age. If your child has bronchiolitis:

  • Your child may wheeze (make a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing).
  • Your child may breathe rapidly (over 40 breaths per minute).
  • Your child may have a cough and cough up a very sticky mucus.

A virus narrows the small airways of the lungs (the bronchioles.) This causes your child to wheeze. Your child may get an ear infection too. A few children may need to stay in the hospital.

How can I take care of my child?

  • It may help to give your child asthma-type medicine. About 1/4 of children with bronchiolitis are helped by asthma medicines. Your child's medicine is _________________. Give _____ every ____ hours. Keep up with the medicine until your child does not wheeze for 24 hours. If your child has a high fever, give acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours or ibuprofen every 6 to 8 hours. No aspirin.
  • Use a humidifier. Moist air can help. Dry air tends to make coughs worse.
  • Make sure your child's nose is not blocked up. If the nose is blocked up, your child will not be able to drink from a bottle or breast-feed. Put 3 drops of warm water or saline in each nostril. After about 1 minute, use a soft rubber suction bulb to suck out the mucus.
  • Make sure your child drinks enough fluids.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child has a hard time breathing.
  • The wheezing gets very bad.
  • Your child is breathing faster than 60 breaths per minute.
  • Your child is acting very sick.

Call your child's doctor within 24 hours if:

  • Any fever lasts more than 3 days.
  • You have any other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-13
Last reviewed: 2009-06-15
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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