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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.

Ask your doctor whether your child should receive monthly injections to prevent infections like RSV.

Girl sitting up in bed, coughing.What Is Bronchiolitis?

The bronchioles are very small breathing tubes in the lungs. They can swell and fill with mucus if there is a viral infection. This may include a cold, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). A child’s bronchioles are very small. So if they swell and fill with mucus, this can make breathing hard. 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, more serious symptoms may occur. These include wheezing, trouble breathing, and a fever.

Treating Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus. This means that antibiotics are not used to treat it. Your doctor may prescribe nose drops to help clear mucus. A medication that helps reduce swelling and open your child’s airways may be prescribed. In severe cases, the child may need to stay in the hospital. Here, the child may be given fluids and breathing treatments.

Preventing the Spread

The viruses that lead to bronchiolitis are very contagious. 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. Do this after sneezing, coughing, and touching your face. Do it before and after tending to a sick child.

  • Limit contact between a sick child and other children.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if your child:

  • Gets worse.

  • Starts a harsh, persistent, or wheezy cough.

  • Breathes faster than normal or has trouble breathing.

  • Is very sleepy, listless, or weak.

  • Is an infant under 3 months with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Is a child 3 to 36 months with a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

  • Is a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • Has a fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years older

  • Has had a seizure caused by the fever


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