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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. Bronchiolitis usually goes away on its own.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • The skin between your child's ribs and around his neck pulls in with each breath.

  • Your child's nostrils open wider when he breathes in.

  • Your child's lips or nails are bluish.

  • Your child has increased wheezing, or has pauses in his breathing.

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

  • Your child has signs of dehydration such as crying without tears, urinating less than usual or not at all, dry mouth or cracked lips, or sunken soft spot on a child younger than 1 year.

  • Your child is weak.

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

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a high 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

  • Your child's symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.

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

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


  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • 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.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Use extra oxygen as directed:

Extra oxygen may be needed at home if your child's blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. A healthcare provider will arrange for your child to be on oxygen at home. He will usually wear a soft plastic tube under his nose called a nasal cannula. The tube carries oxygen from the tank to your child's nose. Ask for more information about using oxygen at home.

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

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

Manage bronchiolitis:

Your child may continue to have symptoms, such as coughing and noisy breathing, for up to 4 weeks.

  • Help your child sit upright. He may need to rest in a recliner. Use a car seat if your child is not sitting on his own yet.

  • Encourage your child to drink liquids as directed. You may need to give your child more liquid than usual to prevent dehydration. Liquids also help thin the mucus in his lungs so he can breathe easier. Ask how much liquid your child should drink and which liquids are best for him. If you are breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed your baby. Breast milk helps your baby fight infection.

  • Remove mucus from his nose as directed. Put several drops of saline in one nostril, then gently suction it out with a bulb syringe. Repeat this process on the other side. Do this before you try to feed your child. It will be easier for him to drink and eat if he can breathe through his nose. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to use a bulb syringe. If your child is old enough, teach him to blow his nose.

Help prevent bronchiolitis:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. A germ-killing hand lotion or gel may be used when no water is available. Wash your and your child's hands after you use the bathroom, sneeze, or eat.

  • Clean toys and other objects with a disinfectant solution. Clean tables, counters, doorknobs, and cribs. Also clean toys that are shared with other children. Wash sheets and towels in hot, soapy water, and dry on high.

  • 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.

  • Avoid other people who are sick. Keep your child away from crowds or people with colds or other respiratory infections.

  • Ask if your child should receive medicine to protect against RSV. Children with specific high-risk conditions may qualify to receive RSV immunoglobulin medicine to help protect him from RSV. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about this medicine.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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)