What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is the most common cause of hospitalization in patients less than 2 years of age. It is a viral infection of the lower respiratory tract. The small breathing tubes in the lungs (bronchioles) fill with mucus, which can make it difficult to breathe. It often is caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It can also be caused by rhinovirus, influenza, human metapneumovirus or many other viruses. It starts with “common cold” symptoms such as runny nose, fever and cough. Wheezing is very common. It is part of the viral illness and does not mean your child has asthma. Poor feeding might occur because of a stuffy nose or trouble breathing. Prematurity or underlying health problems may lead to more severe illness.
How was my child diagnosed with bronchiolitis?
Health care providers usually diagnose bronchiolitis by talking to you about your child’s illness and examining your child. In most cases, blood work, X-rays and virus tests will not change your child’s treatment. Tests for specific viruses are not always accurate.
Is there any medicine to help my child get better faster?
There are no medications to treat the virus, as antibiotics do not treat viruses. The illness needs to “run its course.” Most patients with bronchiolitis are not helped with albuterol treatments, and cough/cold medications are not beneficial and may have side effects.
How can I help my child at home?
- Use a bulb syringe or other manual nasal aspirator (i.e. Nose-Frida, Nasakleen, etc.) to suction mucous from the nose. Put two drops of nasal saline (saltwater) in each nostril before suctioning. This may help remove more mucus.
- Suction before feeding, before sleeping or if your child appears uncomfortable.
- Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Your child may drink smaller amounts than normal. Give fluids more frequently.
- Do not let anyone smoke near your child. This can make his or her symptoms worse.
- Acetaminophen and (for children over 6 months) ibuprofen can be used for fever and fussiness.
- Wash your hands often to help prevent spread of the virus to others.
When should I take my child in for care?
Your child should be seen for:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Sinking in above, below or in between ribs.
- Breathing faster than once per second.
- Trouble eating.
- Fever higher than 101 for more than 5 days.
- Signs of dehydration (no tears, dry mouth or fewer wet diapers).
- If you have any other concerns.
Cough and congestion may last for up to 14 days. Remember to follow up with your child’s health care provider if you believe additional care is needed. If you have any questions, please call the Children’s Mercy Nurse Advice Line: (816) 234-3188.