Bronchiolitis is a viral infection of the bronchioles (small airways) in your child's lungs. These small airways become inflamed and filled with fluid and mucus. The muscles around the airways tighten, making them smaller. This makes it hard for your child to breathe.



  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen: These medicines decrease pain and lower a fever. They are available without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is right for your child. Ask how much to give and how often to give it. Follow directions. These medicines can cause stomach bleeding if not taken correctly. Ibuprofen can cause kidney damage. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. 

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child takes any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines he takes. Include the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Help your child breathe easier:

  • Help your child sit upright: Sitting upright may help your child breathe more easily. Use a car seat if your child is not sitting on his own yet.

  • Remove mucus from his nose: Put several drops of saline nose drops in one nostril, then immediately suction it out with a bulb syringe. Repeat this process on the other side. Do this every time before you try to feed your child. It will be easier for him to drink and eat if he can breathe through his nose. If your child is old enough, teach him to blow his nose. Ask your primary healthcare provider how to use a bulb syringe if you do not know.

Prevent bronchiolitis:

  • Avoid other people who are ill: Keep your child away from crowds and other children or people with colds or other respiratory infections.

  • Clean toys and other objects: Clean objects that your child has touched, such as sheets, tables, and cribs. Also clean toys that are shared with other children and items touched by sick children or adults.

  • Do not expose your child to smoke: Never smoke around or allow others to smoke around your child. Do not take your child to places where a wood stove is burning. Keep your child away from chemical fumes (gas vapors) or dust.

  • Wash your hands: Wash your hands and your child's hands often with soap and water to remove germs. A germ-killing hand lotion or gel may be used when no water is available. This is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of germs.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child is not eating, or has nausea or vomiting.

  • Your child is acting very tired or sleeping more than usual.

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child is breathing fast.

    • More than 50 breaths in 1 minute for newborn babies up to 6 months of age.

    • More than 40 breaths in 1 minute for babies 6 months to 1 year of age.

    • More than 30 breaths in 1 minute for a child 1 year of age and older.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a hard time breathing, has more wheezing, or has pauses in breathing.

  • Your child's lips or nails are bluish.

  • Your child's symptoms get worse.

  • Your child seems weak.

  • Your child is breathing so hard it is difficult for him to eat or drink.

  • Your child has signs of dehydration:

    • Crying without tears

    • Dry mouth or cracked lips

    • More irritable or fussy than normal

    • More sleepy than usual

    • Sunken soft spot on the top of the head if your child is less than 1 year old

    • Urinating less than usual or not at all

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Bronchiolitis (Aftercare Instructions)