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 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. Throw away old medicine lists.

Oxygen at home:

Your primary healthcare provider may 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 your primary healthcare provider for more information about using oxygen at home.

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:

  • Ask if your child should receive medicine to protect against RSV: Your child may need to receive RSV immunoglobulin medicine to help protect him from RSV. When needed, your child will receive 1 dose every month for 5 months. The first dose is usually given in November or December before RSV season.

  • Avoid other people who are ill: Keep your child away from crowds, 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.

Seek care immediately or call 911 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 do not get better, or 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

© 2014 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 (Discharge Care)