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Health Information For Parents
Bronchiolitis (brong-kee-oh-LYE-tiss) is an infection of the respiratory tract. It happens when tiny airways called bronchioles (BRONG-kee-olz) get infected with a virus. They swell and fill with mucus, which can make breathing hard.
Bronchiolitis is more common during the winter months. Most cases can be managed at home.
The first symptoms of bronchiolitis are usually the same as those of a cold:
Usually, symptoms get better on their own. But sometimes the cough might get worse and a child may start wheezing or have noisy breathing.
Kids who go to childcare, have siblings in school, or are around secondhand smoke have a higher risk for bronchiolitis. Older kids and adults can get bronchiolitis, but the infection usually is mild.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of bronchiolitis. Sometimes, the common cold and the flu also can cause it.
When they suspect bronchiolitis, doctors listen to the child’s chest and check oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter.
Usually, no tests are needed. The doctor may use a swab to get a sample of mucus from the nose for testing. This helps with identifying the type of virus causing the problem.
A chest X-ray might be done if the child’s oxygen level is low or the doctor suspects pneumonia.
Most cases of bronchiolitis are mild and don’t need specific medical treatment. Antibiotics can’t help because viruses cause bronchiolitis. Antibiotics work only against bacterial infections.
Treatment focuses on easing symptoms. Kids with bronchiolitis need time to recover and plenty of fluids. Make sure your child gets enough to drink by offering fluids in small amounts often.
You can use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier in your child’s room to help loosen mucus in the airway and relieve cough and congestion. Clean it as recommended to prevent buildup of mold or bacteria. Avoid hot-water and steam humidifiers, which can cause scalding.
To clear nasal congestion, try a nasal aspirator and saline (saltwater) nose drops. This can be especially helpful before feeding and sleeping.
Talk to the doctor before giving your child any medicine. For babies who are old enough, you may be able to give medicine to help with fever and make your child more comfortable. Follow the package directions about how much to give and how often. But cough and cold medicines should not be given to any babies or young kids. When in doubt, call your doctor.
Babies who have trouble breathing, are dehydrated, or seem very tired should be checked by a doctor. Those with serious symptoms may need care in a hospital to get fluids and, sometimes, help with breathing.
Viruses that cause bronchiolitis spread easily through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Germs can stay on hands, toys, doorknobs, tissues, and other surfaces. People can be contagious for several days or even weeks.
Bronchiolitis usually lasts about 1–2 weeks. Sometimes it can take several weeks for symptoms to go away.
Bronchiolitis often is a mild illness. But sometimes it can cause severe symptoms. When it does, kids need treatment in a hospital.
Get medical care right away if a baby:
You know your child best. Call your doctor right away if something doesn’t seem right.
Washing hands well and often is the best way to prevent the spread of viruses that can cause bronchiolitis and other infections.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of this contagious infection.
Premature infants, known as preemies, come into the world earlier than full-term infants. They have many special needs that make their care different from other babies.
Babies who are born prematurely or who experience respiratory problems shortly after birth are at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), sometimes called chronic lung disease.
Coughs are a common symptom, butÂ most aren’t a sign of a serious condition. Learn about different coughs, how to help your child feel better, and when to call your doctor.
Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course.
Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States – and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.
Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly and are worse than the sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. The flu is very contagious. Find out what to do in this article for parents.
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that can help kids feel better — but only when they have certain illnesses. Find out if an antibiotic is right for your child.
Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
By the time we’re 70 years old, we will have taken at least 600 million breaths. All of this breathing couldn’t happen without the respiratory system.
Watch this movie about the respiratory system, the system that enables you to breathe.
Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on colds and ways to feel better when you catch one.
Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can usually be treated without a hospital stay.
Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu – including how to avoid it.
The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.
Each day you breathe about 20,000 times. Find out more about the lungs and breathing process.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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